The chairman of the children and young people’s committee at Nottinghamshire County Council has said top figures in the council “knew something was wrong” over allegations of child sexual abuse – but still failed to properly investigate.
It comes as the council publishes an action plan on how to learn lessons from the historic sexual abuse and rape in children’s homes and foster care.
In July, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published its report into historic abuse in Nottinghamshire from the 1960s inwards.
It was strongly critical of both Nottingham City and the county councils, both for historic actions and current foster care practices.
It told them both to publish a report within six months, detailing what measures they would put in place to assess the potential risks posed by current and former foster carers.
The city council’s plan is due to be published next month, while the county council’s interim plan was approved on Wednesday.
The IICSA report found that ‘despite being regularly informed of disciplinary action taken against staff, but not foster carers, following investigations into sexual abuse of children in residential care during the late 1980s and 1990s, the county councillors responsible for oversight of children’s social care did not question the scale of sexual abuse or what action was being taken’.
The report said: “This was a serious failure of scrutiny and governance.”
And the failure of senior council figures – councillors and officers – to investigate properly at the time was also discussed by the council.
Councillor Philip Owen – who was first elected in 2005 and who gave evidence to the IICSA inquiry in October last year – said: “At the time these horrendous things were happening, senior members and senior officers were aware there was something wrong.
“So the question is of course why was nothing apparently done about it?
“That’s a question I can’t answer, but I think it’s a great pity – whether it was because of time restraints I don’t know – that some of those people weren’t brought before the independent inquiry, like I was myself, and asked that question.”
Coun Owen, who represents Nuthall and Kimberley, said: “I can’t put myself in the place of those victims, it would be impossible to do so.
“However, as the member responsible, for children’s social care now, I would like to know why nothing appeared to have been done.
“I would like to look at those members and officers and say to them ‘you knew something was wrong, why didn’t you do something about it’.”
Coun Kay Cutts, councilleader, said historically people at the council had prioritised the reputation of the authority over the safety of children, which was “an appalling stain on this council’s history”.
She said: “We can never apologise enough to the people who were so terribly abused when they were supposed to be being cared for and looked after. There are no words we can use.
“All we can do is use our best efforts to make quite sure under all circumstances, this will not happen if we know about it, and we will make sure we do everything to make sure we do know about it.”
Coun Alan Rhodes, opposition leader on the council, said: “We should continue to apologise. I will apologise until the day I die for what happened to vulnerable children in the council’s care, whether it was before I became a councillor or afterwards.
“I think we all share those responsibilities as members and officers of this council.”