Rochdale Council leaders 'let down' groomed girls
Former senior managers at Rochdale Borough Council did not do enough to stop the grooming and sexual abuse of children, a report has found.
The review was ordered by the council after nine men were jailed last year for grooming and abusing teenage girls in and around the town.
Jim Taylor, chief executive, said the council had let down some children.
He said the review painted a poor image of how parts of the council was run but said it had improved its procedures.
The 136-page report by independent consultants made 16 recommendations and said the council should have done more to deal with the issue of grooming sooner.
The report said even though the problem was not recognised nationally until 2008, local councils in Lancashire close to Rochdale had already started tackling the issue.
Mr Taylor said: "It is clear from this review that some children were let down by Rochdale Council.
"On behalf of the council, I am deeply sorry these young people did not get the care and support they deserved.
"This review paints a poor picture of the way elements of Rochdale Council has previously been run.
"Hard-working, dedicated staff were also let down by some senior managers who appear to have shown no leadership and taken no responsibility. I am absolutely determined to ensure these mistakes are never repeated."
The court case last May heard five girls aged between 13 and 15 were given alcohol, food and money in return for sex by men of Pakistani and Afghan origin, in and around Rochdale in 2008 and 2009.
It sparked a national debate after Baroness Warsi said a "small minority" of Pakistani men saw white girls as "fair game" and Blackburn MP Jack Straw said some men of Pakistani origin saw white girls as "easy meat".
However Rochdale Council leader Colin Lambert has said he "strongly" disagrees the scandal could be described as an "Asian crime" as it happened "across all communities".
A previous review by the Rochdale Safeguarding Children Board found staff who failed to act had said the girls were making "lifestyle choices".
Rochdale's Labour MP Simon Danczuk said the latest report was a "damning indictment" of the council and it was "wrong" that senior officers who presided over services that failed children had been allowed to escape disciplinary action by taking early retirement.
He called for systems to be put in place to claw back their "enormous" pension funds.
"This report shows that there were alarm bells going off all over the place and they were ignored," he said.
"Senior officers turned a blind eye to child abuse and didn't want to know.
"The perpetrators of these terrible crimes and some senior council officers have brought shame on our town.
"All they needed to do was listen to the victims."