West Yorkshire council resists pressure from MPs who demand inquiry on child sex abuse

The leader of Bradford Council said it will not order a local inquiry into child sexual abuse in the district, despite mounting pressure from MPs.

Robbie Moore MP has been calling for an inquiry into child sexual abuse in Bradford

Robbie Moore, MP for Keighley and Ilkley, has been calling on the council to set up an inquiry, similar to the one led by Professor Alexis Jay in Rotherham in 2014, and during a debate on Tuesday evening several Tory MPs backed his campaign.

Home Office Minister Rachel Maclean said councils are responsible for ordering local inquiries and they have a “moral responsibility to do the right thing” and protect innocent children.

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Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, said a local inquiry is not necessary and the council is working to review and improve its response to the sexual exploitation of children.

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin

She said: “All public services are stretched and we have to focus on what the minister highlighted as the absolute priority which is front-line protection of children now.

“For historic crimes, it doesn’t matter when or who perpetrated the crime, they will be caught and they will be punished. Arrests, prosecutions and imprisonments have resulted already and this work continues.”

The Labour politician also said the council has commissioned 57 reports on child sexual exploitation in the Bradford district over the last six years and referred itself to the Government’s national inquiry on the issue.

Councillor Hinchcliffe said: “We know that in the past agencies let children down. Those children should have been protected but weren’t.

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“In the debate, Government acknowledged that this was a national failing, not just a local one.”

An independent review, which looked into the sexual abuse suffered by five children in Bradford over 17 years and the response of the council, police and other agencies, was published by the Bradford Partnership in July.

The review states the response of some agencies is “not yet good enough” and “some children remain unprotected while some perpetrators remain unknown and unchallenged”.

Mr Moore said the “light and limited” review “reflects only the tip of the iceberg of what has been going on”, when he spoke during the debate in Parliament on Tuesday.

He also said a “small minority of largely Pakistani Muslim men” have been abusing chuldren in Bradford “for far too long” and “nothing has really changed” since his Labour predecessor Ann Cryer raised concerns about grooming gangs over 20 years ago.

“We know that young children remain at risk. It is about time that we tackled these horrific, vile and criminal activities once and for all,” he added.

Conservatives Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, and Lee Anderson, MP for Ashfield, backed calls for an inquiry and accused the council and West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin of failing to take decisive action.

Ms Brabin, who oversees policing in West Yorkshire, said: “Child sexual exploitation is absolutely abhorrent and tackling it is something I take extremely seriously, alongside the police and local community safety partners.

"I know that a huge amount of work is ongoing and has taken place to bring offenders of child sexual exploitation to justice, support victims, improve services and importantly prevent it from happening in the first place. I would like to thank survivors for coming forward and sharing their experiences and for their remarkable bravery.

“To suggest it is an issue being ‘swept under the carpet’ is categorically false and I am disappointed the MP for Keighley has chosen to politicise the issue, especially as many of the examples referenced in the parliamentary debate were taken from a recent independent review commissioned by Bradford Council, as part of on-going work to improve their response.

“Bradford’s independent thematic review, released over the summer, robustly scrutinised the approach locally and identified new opportunities for learning, which have already been acted on.

“This is in addition to a number of other reports Bradford have produced on the subject as well as an annual CSE report which is held in public each year, all of which contribute to an ever developing response.”