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Pressure is growing on Wirral Council leader Phil Davies to “fall on his sword” and resign over the authority’s handling of a shocking child abuse case.
At an urgent council debate following revelations about abuse and grooming carried out by the twisted Rajenthiram brothers on vulnerable Wirral girls – and the council’s failure to stop it – the Conservative group said the buck must stop with leader Phil Davies.
In a hard-hitting speech, deputy Tory leader Lesley Rennie drew parallels with the Rajenthiram brothers and child murderer Ian Brady , who died yesterday.
She said: “Today, on the day when a notorious child abuser and murderer is announced, we stand here in this council accused of neglect – what a shameful position this council has allowed itself to be in.”
In the last week Wirral Council’s director of children’s services Julia Hassall and cabinet member Tony Smith have both left their positions and Cllr Rennie said the leader must now join them.
She said: “It gives me no pleasure to stand here tonight but clearly there has to be change and I believe now that a senior member of the Labour administration and a senior director of the council have fallen on their swords, it really has to be the question of when and not if the leader of this council falls on his.
“I think the leader of the council should review his position, this council cannot carry on in the way it has been going, we cannot carry on allowing vulnerable young people to be at the mercy of this Labour administration.”
Earlier in the meeting, Tory leader Ian Lewis had called for government intervention for the crisis-hit children’s services department and said his group had “zero faith” in Cllr Davies and his administration.
But the under-pressure Labour leader hit back at his critics and argued that changes have already been made which means that the department is very different to the one that failed so badly to protect the victims of the Rajenthiram brothers.
He said: “Like all parents across Wirral I was saddened and sickened to hear of the long-running abuse suffered by vulnerable girls at the hands of two evil brothers in the case which concluded yesterday.
“I am pleased that Dr Maggie Atkinson, the new chair of Wirral’s Safeguarding Children’s Board and a national expert in this field, has been so clear in her view that our services are very different today than they were even six months ago.
“To quote Dr Atkinson who ‘people often say lessons will be learned, in my view lessons have already been learnt’.”
He added: “Clearly, this does not take anything away from the suffering the victims in this case have gone through, but I believe that if these crimes were committed today the response from all public services would be very different.”
The meeting also saw the confirmation of the appointment of Deborah Gorkik as acting head of Children’s Services, following Ms Hassall’s resignation on Friday – with new deputy leader Bernie Mooney taking on the children’s cabinet role from Tony Smith, who did not attend the meeting.