Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson says Ged Fitzgerald ‘honest’ about Rotherham child sex scandal
But opposition leaders accuse mayor of backtracking and say council dishonest abour legal advice claims
Mayor Anderson said Mr Fitzgerald had answered “honestly and fully” about events in the town where up to 1,400 young girls were groomed and exploited.
Mr Fitzgerald was in charge there from 2001 to 2003 and faced questions as to what he may have known about the abuse and whether or not there was any cover up of it.
In August – when a report revealed the scale of the abuse – he said he “abhorred” it and pledged to co-operate with any inquiries.
The Mayor said at the time he would question the chief executive and appointed University of Liverpool vice chancellor Sir Howard Newby to chair the meeting today, also attended by Green leader John Coyne.
Mayor Anderson said: “The chief executive answered an extensive number of questions from myself, Cllr Coyne and the Vice Chancellor and also questions which had been submitted by other councillors, which the chief executive had invited them to do.
“He addressed all the issues in an open and frank manner and provided us with useful context to his time at Rotherham.
“On the basis of our discussions around the information which has been circulating to date about his time at Rotherham I am satisfied that the Chief Executive has answered honestly and fully. He reiterated his comment made in September that he would have cooperated fully with a public inquiry into the issue at Rotherham but the Government has not seen fit to call one.”
Other city opposition leaders declined to take part in what they branded “a charade” after suggesting it should take place in public with the right to ask supplementary questions.
But they were told they would have to put written questions in and that the meeting should not be “interrogatory”.
Lib Dem leader Cllr Richard Kemp said: “The attitude has changed. It went from him (Mayor Anderson) demanding answers to being invited by the chief executive to ask questions.
“He has been blowing in the wind on this issue since it began. He was clearly uninformed when it broke and hasn’t been able to decide what to do since.”
Liberal leader Cllr Steve Radford added: “I have never had any invitation from the chief executive to a meeting. In emails I asked Joe was it his idea to do it like this or the chief executive’s and I didn’t get an answer.”
A statement from Cllr Coyne said he believed the approach had been “the right one”.
He added: ““I am grateful to have had the opportunity to hear directly from the chief executive and I believe he was extremely open in his discussions with us and I now have much more information about the issues in question.”
There was no indication of whether the issue of Mr Fitzgerald’s role in Rotherham is now closed.