Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council is mired in scandal following the revelation that more than 1400 children were abused over a 16 year period while council staff looked the other way. But with some media outlets already seeking to blame “spending cuts”, despite the problem being over a decade old, Breitbart London has discovered that the figures don’t stack up.
The Council is one of the larger English local councils, with 63 elected councillors representing 21 wards across Rotherham, near Sheffield, of whom there are 49 Labour, 2 Conservatives, 10 UKIP and 2 Independents. Prior to the local elections in May 2014, there were 57 Labour, 4 Conservatives, 1 UKIP and 1 Independent.
Although up to 1,000 jobs have been cut over the last four years, including 40 percent of the management team, the council still employs 5,900 staff, excluding teachers, and has a total budget of £208.885 million for 2014/15.
The council this year raised council tax by 1.9 percent, the most allowed under new government rules stating that any higher raises must be voted for by local people in a referendum. The council also cut a further £23m from its budget, but cited as its priorities as including working “with partners to protect and support the most vulnerable young people, families and elderly citizens”.
There has been some attempt in Rotherham to point the finger at a difficult financial climate as the cause of the department’s failings. The introduction to a report entitled A review of the response to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham compiled by the Rotherham Local Safeguarding Children’s Board, includes the following: “This attention has rightly focussed on how children in the Borough have been protected from these crimes and abuse, but within the tight fiscal controls that have been set [our emphasis], partners need to ensure that all aspects of safeguarding children and adults are dealt with appropriately.”
Staggeringly, that report goes on to say “both the media and public perception has been that Rotherham has failed to protect children involved in CSE or identified offenders and brought them to justice.”
“Perception however is not always reality. It is now clear that CSE, in whatever form it takes, and there are a number of ways it can be expressed, is pervasive across the length and breadth of the country.”
The Alexis Jay report entitled Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham 1997 – 2013 that has been the subject of so much media scrutiny today puts paid to the notion that budgetary constraints lay at the heart of the issue. What is clear in the report is that the service was woefully underfunded before 2010, as the council’s management mistook thrift for efficiency, but has since improved, even as the council overall was facing reductions.
Indeed, under the Labour government when public spending was at a historical high, the council starved the department of resources, leading to low morale and severe under-staffing.
In 2008, the job vacancy rate in the department hit an all-time low of 43 percent, with half of all manager positions vacant. By 2013, this had improved to a vacancy level of just 4 percent. And on financing, the report states “The Lead Member for Children and Young People’s Services (2005-2009) indicated he had become increasingly concerned about the underfunding of safeguarding services during his time in office, and was frustrated by the lack of response to this from other members.”
Yet between 2010 and 2013 these problems had been dealt with, as the report details: “Budgeted expenditure on Rotherham children’s social care increased in real terms by 31.8 percent in the four years to 2013.This compared with an average increase of 2.6 percent for its benchmarking group. […] In the four years to 2013/4, it went from having the lowest spend (£406 per child) to being at the median of the group (£604 per child).”
It is clear from this evidence that the Labour run council must not be able to seek to shift the blame to Westminster, but must instead take full responsibility for its poor performance.