A council boss who refused to resign after it was revealed her children’s services department had failed to protect young people from grooming gangs is likely to get a £600,000 pay-off. Oxfordshire County Council Chief Executive, Joanna Simons, will get the package for leaving her post early, in a move the council insist is unrelated to the scandal.
But questions have been raised about the true nature of Ms Simons’ departure as the package has been announced shortly before a report into how the council failed to protect young people in its care is published. In one example, a child absconded from the care of Oxfordshire County Council on a hundred separate occasions. Despite this, no action was taken against her abusers.
In other cases children were given contraceptives to protect them from pregnancy without questions being asked about the nature of their relationships. Neither Oxfordshire County Council social workers nor teachers investigated what happened to vulnerable young victims after they had been excluded from school.
When the child sex ring was eventually exposed, seven men were convicted of arranging child prostitution, sex trafficking and child rape. They were imprisoned for a total of 95 years, but investigations continue and three more men have been convicted since the original 2013 trial.
The failings exposed at Oxfordshire County Council were so serious that Ms Simons herself appeared in a video to apologise for council’s failings, but her video did not include the resignation many victims demanded. At the time the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Sara Thornton, also refused to resign but in another apparently unrelated decision she has also now decided to go.
A witness in the trial of the abusers who grew up with many of the victims in care told the Daily Mail: “The officers and officials did not protect us and now those who were in charge of them have walked out the door.
“They know that by walking out they haven’t got to answer any questions. How are they able to take responsibility if they no longer work for them?”
Simons is due to leave her £186,000-a-year role at the council in June with a £151,000 severance payment and a pension package worth £423,000.
The BBC has described the grooming gangs as being “of Asian origin”, however this has caused outrage amongst Indian and Chinese immigrant communities. The vast majority of offenders are Muslims of Pakistani origin. Council officials in places like Rotherham have suggested they felt unable to report abuse for fear of being branded “racist”.