In 2021, a damning review was released into child sexual exploitation and child safeguarding practices across the Bradford District.
It found that children across Keighley and Bradford “suffered abuse no child should have to experience"; it found that child sexual exploitation was reported but "not heard or acted on” by officials; and it found that in the case of a 12-year-old girl, authorities tried to attribute blame directly onto the victim herself.
It was a harrowing insight into the scourge of child sexual exploitation that has haunted Keighley and the Bradford District for decades, shining a light on the failures of our local authorities to properly get to grips with this horrific crime.
But most notably, this damning review examined the experiences of just five children, only scratching the surface of a more widespread issue in our communities.
Since then, Bradford Council’s failed leader Susan Hinchcliffe and our West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin have repeatedly refused my calls for a full independent inquiry, slamming the door to any form of accountability the very moment it was opened.
Justifying their refusals, Councillor Hinchcliffe has claimed a District-wide inquiry "would not be of additional value" to her Council, Council officials have claimed a full inquiry would be “unlikely to provide [them] with any new learning," and our West Yorkshire Mayor has called claims that this crime is being swept under the carpet “categorically false”.
These denials are outrageous, plain and simple. If the experiences of just five children were enough to expose a multitude of failures in the Council’s handling of this crime, how on earth would a full review be of “no additional value” to officials?
Readers may also note that our Council Leader made similar remarks to defend her record on Children’s Services—until weeks later, an Ofsted report found catastrophic failures and the Council was stripped of its responsibility for the service.
Leaders at Bradford Council and our West Yorkshire Mayor can no longer be taken at their word. They have stood in the way of tackling child sexual exploitation and grooming gangs in the Bradford District for too long, refusing to act.
Enough is enough, and that’s why today, I have launched a formal petition to Bradford Council and our West Yorkshire Mayor demanding they instigate a full, independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation across our District with immediate effect.
A full inquiry is a crucial step to comprehending the scale and intricacies of these crimes, bringing the guilty to justice, formulating a comprehensive strategy to take on CSE and, most importantly, giving victims and their families scarred by the horrors of exploitation the accountability they deserve.
Cliches such as "lessons will be learnt" from our local leaders are no longer good enough after the Council’s Children’s Services disaster, and it is my hope that people from all sides of our political divide—from right across the Bradford District—will give their support to this petition and send a clear message to our local authorities—to act, now.