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Ged Fitzgerald faces cross-party grilling

Move follows questions from Mayor over Rotherham report

Written by . Published on September 11th 2014.

Ged Fitzgerald faces cross-party grilling

LIVERPOOL Mayor Joe Anderson is to meet the leaders of the city’s three opposition parties to discuss the situation of the city’s chief executive, Ged Fitzgerald, in the wake of the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal.

And he has told them he will set up a meeting so they can quiz the Town Hall boss face to face.

Fitzgerald, who earns around £200,000 a year, was chief executive in the Yorkshire town between 2001 and 2003. report published earlier this month found at least 1,400 children were abused in the town from 1997 to 2013.

In a statement, Mayor Anderson confirmed he had held a meeting with his top officer about the affair.

He will meet the three leaders,  John Coyne (Green Party), Steve Radford (Liberals)  and Richard Kemp (Lib Dems) on Friday to discuss the situation.

 Last night Cllr Kemp said the reputational impact on Liverpool had to be a factor.

“Mr Fitzgerald has worked at two other posts in between his job at Rotherham and coming to Liverpool. He has done nothing wrong in Liverpool and I am certain our Children’s Service in our city is well run.

“We need to consider the potential impact on Liverpool if the most senior officer is required to spend a lot of time travelling back and too to London to attend select committee and other hearings to discuss Rotherham matters. I will be discussing the Mayor’s suggestions with our group on Friday.”

Mayor Anderson said:  “I have met with Ged Fitzgerald and had a preliminary discussion on the findings of Professor Alexis Jay’s report in relation to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham. Mr Fitzgerald has given me an overview of his role and recollection in relation to the matters reported whilst he was chief executive of the borough from 2001-2003.

“Following that initial discussion, I have arranged to meet with the leaders of the other political groups on the city council to discuss the matter on Friday, 12 September. I will also facilitate a meeting between the leaders and Mr Fitzgerald to give them an opportunity to ask questions directly about his role at Rotherham. Mr Fitzgerald has already stated publicly, and has emphasised to me, his desire to cooperate fully with any scrutiny of issues that may relate to his involvement.

“I have also written today to the Home Secretary calling for the government to instigate immediately an independent inquiry in response to the Jay report to establish how the appalling failings of public agencies relating to vulnerable children in Rotherham were allowed to develop in such a way.”

It was Mayor Anderson who, as Labour leader of the city council, in November 2010, appointed Fitzgerald as chief executive, saying at the time: “Appointing Ged Fitzgerald is a real coup for Liverpool.  He brings a depth of experience and expertise at a time when the city needs it most.”

Fitzgerald was chief executive at Lancashire County Council before heading south from Preston to Liverpool.

At the time, Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles criticised the salary being offered by Liverpool to its new boss, saying at £198,000 a year, it would be £55,000 a year more than David Cameron earned as Prime Minister.

The then Cllr Anderson responded by declaring that Fitzgerald would run an efficient city.

Fitzgerald was already well known in the city, having worked for the council as head of economic development and European affairs and then as director of City Challenge from 1996 to 1998. He became chief executive of Rotherham council in 2001, before taking up the same role at Sunderland City Council in 2004, and from there to County Hall in Preston.

This week a procession of current and past figures in Rotherham’s civic life have appeared before the House of Common’s Home Affairs Select Committee. There they have faced a tough, public grilling, from chairman Keith Vaz and his committee members.

In another select committee session yesterday, Martin Kimber, who a few days ago resigned from his job as Rotherham’s current chief executive, told MPs key reports detailing child sexual exploitation have disappeared from the archives.

Mr Kimber said he had not seen a full copy of a 2002 report, had never seen a 2003 report and only saw a 2006 report on Sunday.

Mr Kimber said he did not know whether the archives had been destroyed, but he told MPs: "They are not within the council's archives."

In the most recent report into the scandal, published just weeks ago by Prof Alexis Jay, Rotherham council was heavily criticised. "Further stark evidence came in 2002, 2003 and 2006 with three reports known to the police and the council, which could not have been clearer in their description of the situation in Rotherham."

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Katie54September 11th 2014.

As in Westminster, the questions should be asked in public - not least so we can all be sure that they've asked the right ones. What happened in Rotherham is sickening, and there cannot be anyone who does not abhor it, regret what happened, and hopes lessons can be learnt. But for us, here, the questions we need to put to Mr. Fitzgerald have to do with how he and his officers did their jobs - and, specifically, why they not only ignored and tried to suppress two worrying reports during his time as CEO there, but also do not appear to have properly briefed councillors - the elected members to whom officers are supposed to report. But appear to only do so selectively. When questioned by the Home Affairs Select Committee, Kimber admitted not only that the council did not hold copies of any of these reports but also implied, shockingly, that neither study had been considered by any body of elected members. Because there is no mention in the agenda or papers of any committee - not even the cabinet - of either report. That's not an accident, overzealous document management, or whatever - there clearly were a whole series of decisions not to inform councillors. Officers dealt with it themselves, meeting with police (Fitzgerald, more than once, in June 2002, about the Home Office report), bullying the researcher, disappearing the report, etc. Nothing to councillors, nothing on paper, no evidence, and conveniently hazy recollections now. I cannot imagine that anyone, of any political persuasion, wants or ever wanted this kind of behaviour. And how on earth can councillors or even the mayor be sure that they are being fully informed of current council business, with this kind of precedent. So Mr Fitzgerald needs to provide clear and unequivocal answers to some very specific questions. Surely this is precisely what the scrutiny system is for. The Mayoral Select Committee hasn't exactly made a difference so far - why not use it to ask proper incisive questions, on the record, in public?

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

just because he's no longer there does not mean he is not guilty of this...just because he has done nothing visibly wrong in Liverpool should not mean he gets off with this...get rid of him mayor Anderson...if you dont you'll look even worse than you do already..

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2014.

Guilty by association...

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