Under-fire Rotherham children’s boss Joyce Thacker quits

Joyce Thacker, Rotherham Council's former director of children and young people's services
Joyce Thacker, Rotherham Council's former director of children and young people's services
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JOYCE THACKER, the heavily criticised head of children’s services at Rotherham Council, has stepped down from her role following a ‘mutual agreement’ with bosses.

Rotherham Council has today said that Ms Thacker, who has faced repeated calls to resign or be sacked over her role in the town’s child sexual exploitation scandal, has left her £130,000-a-year position with the council.

Former South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright.

Former South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright.

It comes following the revelation that the beleaguered has been off work sick since Monday.

A spokesman for the local authority said: “Joyce Thacker, strategic director for children and young people’s services, is to leave Rotherham Council by mutual agreement, with immediate effect.”

The council refused to answer questions over whether Ms Thacker, one of the officals accused of the “underplaying” the scale and seriousness of the problem in last month’s Jay report, would receive a payout.

“We will be making no further statement at this stage,” added the spokesman.

Tracey Cheetham

Tracey Cheetham

Ms Thacker is the latest head to roll following the release of the report, which found that at least 1,400 children in Rotherham had been sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013 and there had been “serious failings” by the council and the police in protecting victims.

Attention turned to Ms Thacker following the resignation of South Yorkshire crime commissioner Shaun Wright earlier this week.

At a Home Affairs Select Committee hearing last week, she said she would not be standing down as she had worked “tirelessly” to tackle the issue in Rotherham.

She told MPs: “I have given that a lot of thought and I am not stepping aside, for the simple reason I am accountable to the people and the children and families in Rotherham.

“I could have done more. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But I don’t accept there was a full dereliction of my duty.”

The committee called on outgoing council chief executive Martin Kimber to sack Ms Thacker since she refused to join him in stepping down.

Meanwhile, the woman who resigned as Mr Wright’s deputy when he was refusing to step down as crime commissioner has failed in her bid to be his interim successor.

Tracey Cheetham stepped down from her post earlier this month as a protest against Mr Wright’s refusal to resign as the PCC in the wake of the child abuse report.

Today she put herself forward to be appointed by South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Panel to act as PCC until a new permanent commissioner is elected next month.

But the panel, which oversees the work of the PCC, gave the temporary job to the South Yorkshire PCC office’s chief finance officer, Steve Pick.

The panel met in Rotherham 48 hours after Mr Wright resigned in the wake of the controversy.

He quit after three weeks of intense pressure following the publication of Professor Alexis Jay’s report which described how at least 1,400 children were subjected to exploitation in the town between 1997 and 2013.

He had faced widespread criticism and top-level calls for him to step down as he had been the elected councillor with responsibility for children’s services in Rotherham between 2005 and 2010.

The mounting pressure on the former commissioner culminated a week ago when he was summoned before the panel.

He was booed as he entered the room for the emotional session and had to endure calls from members of public and some abuse victims for him to step down.

Ms Cheetham was one of the most prominent voices calling for Mr Wright to resign. She stepped down as deputy PCC when he refused to go, saying she disagreed with his stance.

The panel heard today that she was still serving her notice period and was therefore still eligible to be appointed. Officials said the interim post-holder had to be a member of the PCC’s staff.

This morning’s meeting, at Rotherham Town Hall, will trigger the formal by-election process. The poll will be held on October 30.

The South Yorkshire process will not be the first PCC by-election since the system was set up in 2012.

A by-election was held in the West Midlands last month after the death of post-holder Bob Jones.

There were criticisms of the process following the West Midlands poll and also dismay at a £3.7 million bill for the vote when the turnout was only 10.41% - a cost to the taxpayer of around £15 per vote cast.

Many of the grumbles surrounded the strict by-election timetable which gave candidates only four weeks to find a £5,000 deposit and campaign across a huge area of two million eligible voters. Some said this was why the West Midlands by-election produced no independent candidates.

In the South Yorkshire PCC election in November 2012, Mr Wright got 51.35% of the vote in the first round and was elected. The turnout was 14.53%.

English Democrats candidate David Allen came second.