The mum of a primary school girl whose alleged sex abuse started a taxi licensing investigation at South Ribble Council has spoken out for the first time.
The girl – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – was mentioned in an interim report into the scandal, leaked to the press in April.
The driver accused of abusing her was allowed to keep his private hire badge for 10 months while on bail. The case was not brought to court because of the girl’s age, but the driver has since had all of his taxi licences revoked.
A fact-finding mission after concerns were raised lead to the uncovering of a number of serious failings in the department, with two licensing officers being suspended. Now the monitoring officer who instigated the investigation has also been suspended.
The girl’s mum believes the case has been used as a “political football”.
She said: “Since the story broke it’s been repeated in the press. There’s talk about the council leader, leader of the opposition, Paul Foster, and all these councillors calling for others to resign.
My daughter’s case is being used as a bat and ball – all blaming each other whilst I’ve not even had an apology.
”She added: “I feel like I’ve been let down by every single agency. I’ve had nothing from the council. And everyone I’ve been dealing with has been suspended or has resigned.”
When the news of the secret report came to public attention, the mum said it brought back details of the case she had tried to move on from, and for which her daughter has had therapy.
The mum said: “I thought that when he had his badges revoked I had a little bit of closure. But when I went in newsagents it was all over the papers, when it was on ITV I had 15 texts in a minute, and I couldn’t have the radio on in the car because I didn’t want my daughter hearing it.”
She also claims she has been let down by councillors who promised she would be involved in a scrutiny review into the department problems.
She said: “The councillors all said I would be part of the scrutiny review and they would contact me, but I’ve never heard. I emailed in and had no reply. I feel like they’re trying to keep me out of it.”
Seema Kennedy, MP for South Ribble said: “I immediately wrote to the council to raise the matter and shared her concerns with the police. I am sorry she is disappointed that the process is going slowly but I have made representations on her behalf and await responses.”
Interim leader of the council, Coun Colin Clark, said: “The council takes any allegation relating to the conduct of a licensed taxi driver extremely seriously.
“That is why, as soon as concerns were raised about our Licensing Service, we acted swiftly and commissioned an external report by an independent firm of solicitors. We have implemented all of its recommendations and have checked and double-checked the licence of every single taxi driver licensed by South Ribble Borough Council.
“To ensure that no stone is left unturned, a special task group from our Scrutiny Committee is also undertaking a full review of how the council has handled the investigation. This will allow us to learn valuable lessons for the future. The findings of this thorough review will be made available to the public in full.”
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South Ribble Borough Council ‘failure’ over taxi child sex claims
The report follows claims children were sexually exploited by taxi drivers in South Ribble
A review of how an investigation into taxi licensing was handled by a council in Lancashire has found “a major corporate governance failure”.
The draft report accuses South Ribble Borough Council of showing a “lack of regard” for safeguarding policies.
It follows claims children were sexually exploited by taxi drivers in the borough.
The report includes interviews with some councillors and officers involved in handling the complaints.
They include the council’s monitoring officer Ian Parker who described being “spooked” when various safeguarding problems were uncovered.
He admitted the council “let down” a vulnerable 16-year-old girl who was inappropriately spoken to by a taxi driver, and claimed he felt “out of his depth”.
The report details how the taxi driver told the girl he could legally have sex with her because it was her 16th birthday.
But councillor Warren Bennett, who was a cabinet member at the time, said nobody on the committee had thought the incident was a problem when the driver’s licence came up for renewal.
According to another interview on the same topic, the girl reported the problem to a school teacher who contacted Lancashire County Council, which then removed the culprit from its list of approved drivers.
South Ribble Council, however, were not informed of the move and the man continued to drive taxis in the borough.
The report also found members of the council broke its constitution on several occasions, and asked why the former leader Margaret Smith and Chief Executive Mike Nuttall – who have both since resigned – were excluded from the investigation.
Compiled by a group of councillors, it also asked why cabinet meetings were arranged behind closed doors, with no formal record of decisions being made.
The report will be discussed by the council’s scrutiny committee next week.
If accepted, the group will recommend action which could include referring staff members involved to the council’s standards committee.