Extraordinary meeting over taxi drivers child abuse scandal gets members heated

ROW: South Ribble Council is at the centre of a secrecy storm
ROW: South Ribble Council is at the centre of a secrecy storm

A MAJOR row broke out at an extraordinary meeting last night as South Ribble councillors discussed the handling of a taxi driver child abuse investigation.

Labour bosses slammed the council’s all-tory cabinet for “covering up” a secret report commissioned by South Ribble Council’s leaders, which has been kept away from the public.

At the meeting at the Civic Centre in Leyland, coun Paul Foster, Labour leader, said he had been made aware of the report in November and asked for it to be made available to all members but was told he could not divulge the information to anyone. He also said he had not been part of the decision to keep the report within the cabinet and himself and labelled the handling of the investigation “a stitch up, a cock-up and a cover up”.

However several of the executive strongly refuted his claims and coun Warren Bennett said he looked forward to the time the full report would be released and for coun Foster to apologise for some of the comments he had made.

The damning report in question, seen by the Evening Post, claims one driver was arrested for sexual assault on a primary school girl and a ‘vulnerable’ 16-year-old girl complained that a male driver had made “inappropriate sexualised remarks” to her.

Solicitors commissioned by the council found licencing bosses failed to carry out background checks on drivers and did not carry out appropriate investigations into the allegations.

The report even warned “there is a clear risk to the safeguarding of not only children, but the public as a whole.”

Two licensing officers have also been suspended since late December.

The council could have excluded members of the public and press as a standing order says they may do so when the conduct of a council employee is being discussed but both were admitted.

In a pre-written statement, Margaret Smith, Leader of South Ribble Council, said the final independent report will be published in full when it is finished.

Coun Michael Titherington, chairman of South Ribble Borough Council’s scrutiny committee, said he vows to uncover the truth.