South Ribble Borough Council 'failure' over taxi child sex claims

Taxi sign Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The report follows claims children were sexually exploited by taxi drivers in South Ribble

A review of how an investigation into taxi licensing was handled by a council in Lancashire has found "a major corporate governance failure".

The draft report accuses South Ribble Borough Council of showing a "lack of regard" for safeguarding policies.

It follows claims children were sexually exploited by taxi drivers in the borough.

The report includes interviews with some councillors and officers involved in handling the complaints.

They include the council's monitoring officer Ian Parker who described being "spooked" when various safeguarding problems were uncovered.

He admitted the council "let down" a vulnerable 16-year-old girl who was inappropriately spoken to by a taxi driver, and claimed he felt "out of his depth".

The report details how the taxi driver told the girl he could legally have sex with her because it was her 16th birthday.

Image copyright Geograph/Ian Greig
Image caption Interviews with staff at South Ribble Council are recorded in the report

But councillor Warren Bennett, who was a cabinet member at the time, said nobody on the committee had thought the incident was a problem when the driver's licence came up for renewal.

According to another interview on the same topic, the girl reported the problem to a school teacher who contacted Lancashire County Council, which then removed the culprit from its list of approved drivers.

South Ribble Council, however, were not informed of the move and the man continued to drive taxis in the borough.

The report also found members of the council broke its constitution on several occasions, and asked why the former leader Margaret Smith and Chief Executive Mike Nuttall - who have both since resigned - were excluded from the investigation.

Compiled by a group of councillors, it also asked why cabinet meetings were arranged behind closed doors, with no formal record of decisions being made.

The report will be discussed by the council's scrutiny committee next week.

If accepted, the group will recommend action which could include referring staff members involved to the council's standards committee.

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