Jack Clarkson, a Sheffield councillor and former police inspector, made clear the child abuse scandal would be at the heart of his bid to be crime commissioner as he launched his campaign outside Rotherham Town Hall.
Flanked by supporters, he claimed gangs were still picking up children “to order” in Rotherham.
“Rotherham Labour councillors have certainly put Rotherham on the map. We have become the paedophilia centre of the North. We are an embarassment.
“We used to have a reputation for making steel. Now Rotherham has a reputation for child sexual exploitation.”
He said South Yorkshire is a “massive area with massive issues” but what happened in Rotherham was “on everyone’s lips” and needed action.
“The trust and respect for the police in Rotherham, I think, is shattered to be honest. That’s why I want the National Crime Agency to come in and not only look at the organised gangs but go more thorough than that - look at what the police were doing, look at what the councillors were doing, look at what officers in the council were doing because I believe there has been a cover-up.”
The post of police and crime commissioner was left vacant by the resignation of Shaun Wright in the wake of the Jay report.
Mr Wright had previously been the Rotherham councillor responsible for children’s services from 2005 to 2010.
Labour’s candidate Alan Billings said: “My first priority will be the victims of child exploitation. That they were failed by the police, the authorities and those in positions of authority for so long is a disgrace.
“I will ensure that victims of this awful crime are given the support they need, their abusers must be identified and prosecuted, and those who have failed the victims must be held to account.
“We don’t want a career politician for this post and we cannot have a former South Yorkshire Police officer – it’s vital that the Police and Crime Commissioner can objectively and independently hold our police to account to bring about the real change we need.”