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Sex Grooming Report “Either Cock-Up Or Conspiracy”

Clr Bill Armer, who warned Kirklees Council not to dilute an investigation into child sexual exploitation in Huddersfield.

A critic of Kirklees Council’s decision to commission an independent review into child sexual exploitation in the town says his fears have been realised.

Clr Bill Armer was among Conservatives who called for a comprehensive judge-led public inquiry into the scandal that tarnished the reputation of Huddersfield.

With party colleagues Nigel Patrick and David Hall he argued that any inquiry into the scandal should be wholly independent, held in public and outside the jurisdiction of the council and its partners.

Six months on he has slammed a report by Dr Mark Peel, of Leeds Safeguarding Children Partnership, calling it “either cock-up or conspiracy”.

Commenting following the release of the report – just hours after a private briefing to councillors in Huddersfield Town Hall – he said the council had sought to play down the scandal.

“It’s what I feared,” he said.

“I have no complaint about Mark Peel’s professionalism or ability but the remit was far too restrictive. It doesn’t do the job. It was too restrictive to do the job.

“That’s not his fault. It’s Kirklees’ fault.”

He added: “I called it a whitewash right from the outset.

“It’s either cock-up or conspiracy. They have either deliberately sought to play it down or they have not thought it through properly.”

Clr Armer and fellow Conservatives clashed with the ruling Labour group on Kirklees Council last November when they argued over the direction an independent judicial inquiry might take.

Clr Patrick expressed concern that Dr Peel was “too close” to partner organisations and “cannot be regarded as impartial”.

A Labour amendment to a motion submitted by Clr Hall and Clr Michael Watson removed a specific reference to Kirklees.

It was replaced with a call for a wider investigation across England.

Tories lost a vote on the amendment, which then became the substantive motion on which the group abstained en-masse. It was passed by 44 votes.

Speaking at the time Clr Armer called the amendment “disgraceful”.

He added: “It dilutes the attention on this council, on the police and on other partner agencies in this borough.

“There have been major problems. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. There have, I would suggest, been major failings within this borough.

“We need a major inquiry into events within this borough. We need an inquiry to examine local systems and where they failed our children. Let’s not dilute things and look at the whole of England and Wales. Let’s look at Kirklees.”

Jacqui Gedman, Kirklees Council Chief Executive, said the authority commissioned Dr Peel’s report because it was determined to gain a fully independent view of our practice at the time of these cases.

“We have been completely open in our desire to examine our own actions and make every improvement we possibly can.

“We absolutely agree with Dr Peel that a small number of the cases could, and should, have been handled differently at the time and on behalf of the council I want to apologise to the girls that we let
 down.

“This is a common theme in reviews of historic cases around the country and we must all ensure that we learn from the past.

Responding to Ms Gedman’s comments Clr Armer said the council was guilty of trying to “spin” the gravity of the situation and the conclusions of Dr Peel’s report.

“It’s totally inappropriate,” he said.

“The only appropriate response is to come out and say ‘We got it wrong and we’ll do it better next time.’ That’s the only approach. They shouldn’t spin it.”

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