Chairman of Telford child sexual exploitation inquiry to return to town next year
The chairman of the independent inquiry into Telford child sexual exploitation will return early next year to assess what improvements have been made.
Tom Crowther QC led the damning inquiry which revealed that over 1,000 girls had been exploited in the borough.
As part of his report – published in July last year – Mr Crowther highlighted 29 recommendations, comprising 82 actions that Telford & Wrekin Council had ‘‘sole responsibility’ for implementing.
An update given to councillors last week said that 75 per cent of those actions are now ready for assessment.
Lee Carter, the council's cabinet member for neighbourhood services, said Mr Crowther ‘will be back in March’ to assess the council’s progress.
“This administration has done everything it can do to ensure that the needs and concerns of victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Telford & Wrekin are reflected in our response,” said Councillor Carter.
“We have always been determined in our view that it is the independent chair who will decide whether we have met the recommendations and it not for us to say that the actions are complete.
“Of the remaining 25 per cent recommendations which relate to those that require systemic change, they are on track to be assessment ready by the end of this year.”
The report to full council sought delegated authority to write to Mr Crowther asking him return.
The cabinet member also thanked the three lived experience consultees who have been helping to implement the recommendations.
He added: “Their determination, their candidness, their personal dedication and their involvement in this whole process has brought value to the work that we have done to implement the actions.
“Both as a council and as a borough, Telford & Wrekin is better for their contribution.”
Commenting on the update, local Conservative party leader Councillor Andrew Eade said that he could see no reason for not ‘pressing ahead’ and inviting Mr Crowther to start reviewing actions ‘straight away’.
“Such an arrangement and piece of work will take some considerable time to arrange and put in place,” said Councillor Eade.
The Conservative leader proposed an amendment that Mr Crowther’s review is ‘triggered right away’ to prevent further delays.
He also asked for a full breakdown of the actions already completed by the council, those in progress and targeted for completion in December.
Councillor Eade also asked for a briefing to be held, including details of how other organisations are progressing with Mr Crowther’s recommendations.
He was supported by fellow party member Steve Bentley, who claimed that there was no ‘substantive information’ in the update reports.
“There is still a lack of confidence out there in the general public that this particular issue is going to be addressed and go away,” said Councillor Bentley.
In response to the report, Councillor Nigel Dugmore asked how much the lived experience consultees had received in payment from the council.
Councillor Carter said that he would not disclose any arrangement and labelled the comment ‘wholly inappropriate’.
He accused the Conservative members of ‘not listening’ to invitations to participate in the process, so that they ‘wouldn’t need’ a briefing.
“We have listened, we have done the hard yards and are fast approaching the verdict of the ultimate arbiter in this, Tom Crowther KC, who will deliver his assessment and tell us exactly where we are on this important issue for the benefit of the whole of Telford and Wrekin,” Councillor Carter added.
Councillor Peter Scott said that there had been a lot of ‘political football’ around the CSE report and he congratulated the council for ‘dealing with the report properly’.
“The fact that those people who have never had a voice are now working with the council speaks volumes,” he said.