Ex-Wigan planner is under fire

Martin Kimber
Martin Kimber

A FORMER Wigan Council chief is under fire at the centre of a national scandal concerning more than 1,000 children raped by sex gangs.

Martin Kimber, the former environmental services director at the town hall who is now chief executive at Rotherham Council, is facing furious criticism and calls for action following the publication of a damning report.

An inquiry into child sex abuse in the South Yorkshire town found at least 1,400 girls, some as young as 11, were repeatedly raped by men mainly of Pakistani heritage and trafficked around other northern towns to have sex with groups of men, although most of the events occurred before Mr Kimber was employed.

The inquiry found one young girl was doused in petrol and another had a gun held to her head to ensure she was obedient to her abusers.

The report’s author, Professor Alexis Jay, confirmed council leaders, social workers and officers at South Yorkshire Police repeatedly failed to protect victims who reported their degrading ordeals to the authorities, refusing to believe the girls’ stories and wary of damaging community relations by highlighting the ethnic dimension of the gangs’ criminal activities.

The chief executive at the crisis-stricken council Roger Stone has already resigned and Mr Kimber is now facing a barrage of criticism of his handling of the abuse after it emerged no senior official has been disciplined.

While apologising for the failures highlighted in the report which were “neither acceptable nor excusable” he said there was not enough evidence to charge anyone still employed by the local authority with wrong-doing. However, this has not prevented calls for more prominent figures connected to the scandal to lose their jobs.

Ukip Yorkshire and Humber MEP Jane Collins said: “How the chief executive of Rotherham Council, Martin Kimber, can sit there and glibly tell the world that not one person has been sacked nor disciplined regarding this matter is beyond me.

“We are talking about children as young as 11 being trafficked, gang raped, beaten, plied with alcohol and drugs and even threatened with being burned alive. My outrage is simply beyond words.

“I categorically call for the resignation of everyone directly and indirectly involved in this case.”

A Downing Street spokesman called the failings of the local authority and police in Rotherham “appalling”, while the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) lamented a “collective blindness over many years to the suffering of children” among senior management.

The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for South Yorkshire Shaun Wright, who was previously in charge of children’s services at the council, has faced public calls for his resignation but was still clinging on to his job today.

The report details incidents in the town going back to 1997 but the abuse was only uncovered in 2010 when a national newspaper investigation led to five men being found guilty and jailed.

Journalists who investigated the sex abuse also say Rotherham Council repeatedly tried to prevent evidence of the crimes becoming public.

Mr Kimber moved to Rotherham in 2009 after a seven-year stint in Wigan which saw him rise from director of planning to lead the new environmental services department responsible for matters including highways, environmental health and regeneration.