Britain’s highest paid council boss is sacked amid inquiry over care home sex allegations against staff
- Peter Lewis was fired weeks after two Somerset children’s homes were shut
- Ofsted said children were at risk of sexual and criminal exploitation
- ‘Disappointing’ head of children’s services was paid £318,500-a-year
- Police re-opened inquiry into claims that employee had sex with child in care
- Whistleblower said the service was in ‘chaos’ and abuse was not isolated
Peter Lewis has been sacked as head of Somerset’s children’s services amid allegations that a member of his staff had sex with a 16-year-old girl in care
Britain’s highest paid council boss has been sacked as head of Somerset’s children’s services amid allegations that a member of his staff had sex with a 16-year-old girl in care.
Peter Lewis, who received £318,500-a-year, was fired weeks after two children’s homes were shut following claims children used drugs and were at risk from sexual and criminal exploitation.
A council whistleblower said the service was in ‘chaos’ and claimed the abuse involving the 16-year-old was not an isolated incident.
Mr Lewis was brought in to improve the service which was rated ‘inadequate’ in an Ofsted report last year, but his performance has been described as ‘disappointing’.
His pay package was questioned after a string of critical reports resurfaced regarding the deaths of two children in suspected abuse cases from his time as director of children’s services in Enfield.
In the same month that Mr Lewis was dismissed from his Somerset post, police reopened an inquiry into claims that a council employee had been having sex with a girl in care.
The case was examined but dropped in 2013 when the man, who subsequently resigned, denied the allegations.
A report was critical of the employee’s manager for creating an atmosphere that permitted ‘inappropriate sexual boundaries’.
The fresh investigation followed a recent meeting with Lewis when new evidence came to light, according to a council whistleblower.
‘No one in the senior levels of the department was taking this seriously enough, so I felt it was my duty to report it to police myself,’ he told the Sunday Times.
‘I could not say whether [the police] were already aware of it but it seems the issue is now being investigated properly.
‘This is not an isolated incident as far as I’m concerned. Children’s services here are in total chaos and they have not been improved under Lewis.’
Police said the inquiry was at an early stage and no arrests have been made.
A Somerset County Council whistleblower said the service was in ‘chaos’ and claimed the abuse involving the 16-year-old was not an isolated incident
The council said there was no evidence that the girl was under the age of consent when the alleged sexual relationship took place.
West End Cottage at Chedzoy and Appledore near West Pennard, both run by Somerset County Council, were deemed ‘inadequate’.
A report from one of the care homes, said: ‘Going missing from home, substance misuse, exploitation and engaging in harmful relationships are commonplace for some young people.’
On two occasions at the same home ‘inappropriate physical intervention’ has been used by staff against young people, resulting in distress and on one occasion, injury, the report said.
Edward Timpson, the children’s minister, has called council officials to an emergency meeting to discuss the situation.
Chief Executive of Somerset County Council, Pat Flaherty, said: ‘I came into my post six months ago, and I gave Peter and his team time to prove themselves to me. It is hugely disappointing that results have not matched expectations.
‘We have put in extra budgets and extra staff including more children’s social workers.
‘This has brought improvements which the government has recognised but sadly not at the level or speeds anticipated and the current situation with our children’s homes and children’s centres is just not good enough.’
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