Defiant Shaun Wright has resigned from the Labour Party but is refusing to quit from his police and crime commissioner position.
Mr Wright continued to refuse to resign his PCC role over the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal – and nobody at all has the power to sack him.
The explosive inquiry by Professor Alexis Jay OBE into sex abuse in the town between 1997 and 2013 revealed Mr Wright, who is a former Rotherham councillor, had known of the problems as early as 2005.
Mr Wright, formerly vice chair of the Police Authority, was lead member for children and young people’s services from 2005 to 2010. The report said he ‘was aware of child sexual exploitation from the outset of his tenure’.
It added: “He believed that reports on the subject, which he received as lead member, were taken seriously and acted upon by the council in conjunction with the police.”
A small gathering of EDL protesters gathered outside Rotherham police station on Wednesday night chanting ‘Shaun Wright Out’.
And despite resigning from the Labour Party last night and intending to remain in his role as an Independent Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire senior Labour figures – including David Blunkett and Ed Miliband, and Sheffield Council’s deputy leader Harry Harpham – joined growing calls for Mr Wright to resign.
Mr Wright said in a statement: “I formally tender my resignation from the Labour Party. However, I remain committed to, and intend to remain in, my role as an Independent Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire.
“I entered into public service over 20 years ago to make a positive difference.
“Protecting vulnerable people has been my number one priority as Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire.
“I have had to make the difficult decision to stand down from the Labour Party and it’s with deep regret that I’ve come to that decision.”
Home Secretary Theresa May has said it is not her job to hire and fire PCCs, but Mr Wright should ‘heed calls’ to go.
And Sheffield Lib Dem councillors intend to put forward a vote of no confidence in Mr Wright at next week’s full council meeting.
There are no powers in legislation governing police and crime commissioners which can force his dismissal.
Local police and crime panels oversee the work of commissioners, but cannot remove PCCs, and can suspend them only if they have been charged with a serious criminal offence.
Coun Harpham, who is also chairman of the police and crime panel for South Yorkshire, said: “I think he should resign, I think his position is untenable. The report is absolutely shocking – as a parent it makes your blood run cold.”
But Mr Wright insisted he is ‘more determined than ever’.
He said the scale of the problem in Rotherham had ‘come as a surprise’.
“Had I known then what I know now I could have done more,” he said. “As an elected member I came into this role to make a difference. At every stage I’ve done my utmost to protect people.
“I have taken lessons learned and brought them to bear in my new role with South Yorkshire Police.
“I believe I am the most appropriate person to hold this office at this current time.”
Mr Wright, who was elected as Labour PCC in 2012 – on a voter turnout of just 14 per cent – insisted he had already shouldered his share of responsibility by quitting Rotherham Council in 2010 after the scandal was first revealed.
He added: “Clearly I’m very sorry for any abuse that took place – if I could have prevented it, I would. Any right-minded human being would want to protect vulnerable children.
“I take my share of the responsibility, there was systemic failure, and I only wish I knew more at the time. I think I took appropriate actions where that was available.
“I do have regrets that perhaps I was not more aware of the issue at a time I could have perhaps influenced services better. But in the end I regret my role in that systemic failure and I have taken responsibility for that.”
He added: “What Prof Jay has painted a picture of is really an industrial scale of child abuse taking place.
“To that extent I was simply not aware of the scale of the problem. Had I been aware of the issue then, like I am today, then clearly much more action would and could have been taken. What this report demonstrates is that lots of information was not escalated up to political level or indeed senior management level. For that I am hugely shocked and hugely sorry.”
His insistence on remaining in post comes despite mounting pressure on Mr Wright to quit.
A statement from the Labour Party said: “The report into child abuse in Rotherham was devastating in its findings. Vulnerable children were repeatedly abused and then let down. In the light of this, it is appropriate South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright should step down.”