Rotherham Labour councillor suspended after 'sleeping through grooming briefing'

Cllr Atkin has declined to comment on the accusation. Credit: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

A Labour councillor has been suspended after he was accused of falling asleep during a briefing aimed at tackling child sexual exploitation.Alan Atkin allegedly nodded off in one of a series of meetings, held on Tuesday, to update Rotherham councillors on what was being done to keep children safe.

They were scrutinising council support for survivors of child sexual exploitation.

Cllr Chris Read, leader of the council, said: "The Labour Party takes tackling child exploitation incredibly seriously and the response of the council to threats to children has been transformed under our leadership in recent years, as the presentation to Scrutiny showed."Cllr Atkin’s conduct in yesterday’s meeting was far from the standard of professionalism and diligence we expect from our elected officials, and as such we have suspended the whip from Cllr Atkin.

He added: “We are a changed Labour Party, and the public have a right to know that all Labour Party elected officials are of the highest standard.”

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An inquiry into grooming in Rotherham in the 1990s and 2000s found at least 1,400 children were subjected to sexual abuse.

A report said girls as young as 11 were raped, trafficked, abducted, beaten, and intimidated by men predominantly of Pakistani heritage.

Mr Atkin has since declined to comment, but told the BBC that he was "embarrassed" by the incident.

He added: “I’m a human being, people fall asleep sometimes. I put it down to my age and weight.

“People fall asleep at work all the time, don’t they? It happened, I wish it wouldn’t have happened. I was probably asleep for two minutes.

“Everybody is making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

Rother Valley Conservative MP Alexander Stafford said the incident was "shocking".

He tweeted: "Absolutely shocking that a senior Labour councillor - who chairs one of the most important committees on the xouncil - was asleep and snoring during a briefing on child sexual exploitation.

"Why do they not, even after all these years, take the protection of our girls seriously?"

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