Why Wright is wrong – again

IF SHAMED crime commissioner Shaun Wright really cares about the people of South Yorkshire, it is time – albeit very belatedly – for him to realise that he is not the man to deliver the changes which are still necessary following the sexual exploitation of 1,400 young girls in Rotherham.

The appalling betrayal of so many youngsters by Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police has already gone down in history as one of Britain’s worst ever child abuse scandals, and Mr Wright’s refusal to accept responsibility for his own failings of leadership continue to defy belief.

It is certainly true that the commissioner has increased funding for the tackling of abuse since his election nearly two years ago, but it simply does not excuse the fact that he was asleep on the job when lead councillor for children’s services in Rotherham.

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Professor Alexis Jay made this clear when she published her devastating report. National and local politicians, headed by David Cameron, have demanded Mr Wright’s resignation. And the criticism meted out by Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday was unprecedented in its forcefulness.

Yet these interventions were eclipsed by yesterday’s ill-tempered exchanges when the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel passed another motion of no confidence in its own commissioner.

Here was a stormy meeting where Rotherham residents queued up to express their disgust at Mr Wright’s lack of humility before council representatives said that they could no longer work with the commissioner because of the breach of trust. If these interventions fail to stir Mr Wright’s seemingly impenetrable conscience, Parliament will have to pass an emergency law to force his removal from office. It appears to be the only option left open to MPs – and those betrayed by his many derelictions of duty.

Cat out of the bag

Scotland opens Pandora’s Box

NICK Clegg says that the “cat is out of the bag” on devolution – irrespective of which way Scots vote on independence. In fact, it is more akin to opening Pandora’s Box.

The truth is that no one really knows the full implications of a Yes vote next Thursday – both in the short-term and over the decades to come. The latest warning came yesterday from Leeds-based supermarket giant Asda, which predicted that food prices would rise.

The Deputy Prime Minister is right on one thing, however. The surge in support for separatism north of the border is a game-changer.

If Scotland is being promised further irreversible powers even after a No vote, then regions such as Yorkshire will rightly argue that they have an equal claim to a greater say over how they are governed and how money is spent locally.

The inescapable irony is that the coalition finds itself having to paint this fracturing of traditional Westminster-based government in a positive light as it finally wakes up to the fact that there is a genuine appetite for devolution – and not just north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. This is the same Government, remember, that commissioned Lord Heseltine’s visionary No Stone Unturned report for re-energising the North, only to then all but disown it.

For all George Osborne’s talk of a “collective northern powerhouse” to fix the imbalances in a London-centric UK economy, little meat has been put on the bones. That now looks set to change. And if Scotland is convinced it would be empowered by devolution, just imagine what it could do for Yorkshire.

Tale of two stores

John Lewis exposes Morrisons

THE UPS and downs of the High Street were reflected by the contrasting financial results posted by the department store John Lewis, which continues to go from strength to strength, and Yorkshire supermarket giant Morrisons which saw its underlying profits halved.

Yet, while Morrisons has attributed its slump to the introduction of price cuts in response to the threat posed by discount retailers rather than the leadership of chief executive Dalton Philips whose long-term future hangs in the balance, John Lewis has shown how Britain’s bellwether stores can move with the times.

Yes, John Lewis is now reaping the rewards for investing heavily in its online service – but it has also maintained exemplary standards of customer service in its stores around the country. Contrast this with Morrisons which is only now embracing the internet, and also the volume of complaints that have been levelled against the supermarket’s staff in recent times.