An infuriated MP is attacking a former Rochdale Council Chief Executive for taking a ‘perverse’ pride in claiming to be ignorant of widespread child sex abuse in the town.
Simon Danczuk MP said the blundering leadership of Roger Ellis – who refused to take responsibility for social services ignoring endemic sexual abuse during his tenure – had shattered lives.
Mr Ellis, along with his replacement Jim Taylor and Crisis Intervention Team leader Sara Rowbotham, gave evidence on the issue to a Commons Home Affairs Select Committee earlier in the week.
Claims from Roger Ellis that he knew nothing of the stories, despite being council chief for 12 years before leaving this year, ‘beggared belief’ according to Mr Danczuk.
The committee hearing was called after ten Asian Rochdale men were jailed for a total of 96 years earlier this year after Greater Manchester Police’s largest ever investigation into child sex exploitation.
Victims were ‘discriminated against and treated appallingly by social services’, according to Ms Rowbotham, but Mr Ellis insisted he felt no ‘personal guilt’ over his role.
Mr Danczuk also criticised Mr Ellis for refusing to disclose details of his ‘bumper pay-off’ and called for a significant portion of it to be given back.
The Rochdale MP said: “The victims wanted to hear senior managers explain how a council culture came about that allowed victims of rape to be routinely ignored by social workers.
“We wanted to hear from a repentant former chief executive who was prepared to explain how things went so badly wrong under his watch.
“But instead we got someone who refused to accept personal responsibility and claimed he didn’t know anything about the endemic culture of abuse that was reported to social services on numerous occasions.”
He also said Mr Ellis appeared all the more contradictory as he was a member of the council’s Safeguarding Children Board.
Mr Danczuk said: “We heard earlier on in the committee, Sara Rowbotham tell MPs she had made over 100 referrals for abuse in this period. Roger Ellis said nobody had told him anything.
“He didn’t know a sexual exploitation working group had been set up in 2007, which identified 50 young people affected by, or who were at risk of, sexual exploitation and yet he still didn’t know anything.”
Mr Ellis also disagreed with Ms Rowbotham in attributing blame to frontline social workers, something Mr Danczuk criticised as managers are usually the ones who set cultures.
Mr Danczuk has previously told MM he believed the girls were neglected and ignored because they were working class, a point he reiterated.
“Class plays a significant role. The view is that these were girls from council estates and they were just not credible,” he added.
Steve Garner, Rochdale Council’s former Head of Children’s Services, was too ill to give evidence to the committee last week.
No decision has yet been taken on when he will be called again.
Mr Danczuk called for a judicial enquiry into the running and management of Rochdale’s social services.
“Managers have either refused to be questioned or have taken early retirement and it’s becoming clear they are trying to cover up what went on in a rotten department,” he said.