To Cllr Sean Anstee

Trafford Council leader

(Cllr Anstee's responses are highlighted in bold)

Dear Cllr Anstee,

It has now been seven days since the conviction and sentencing of a Trafford Councillor and I am disappointed that neither, you or Trafford Council has made any comment.

The protocol agreed between all parties was and remains that all communication activity would be co-ordinated through the National Crime Agency, who released a statement following the verdict.

This case is nothing to do with party politics as the focus should always be on supporting the victims and preventing further children being harmed in the future. (Agreed) You will note I have not named the councillor or party he represented as this individual is not worthy of any reference.

I believe an opportunity was missed to thank and congratulate Greater Manchester Police, the National Crime Agency, CEOP and other agencies on their hard work which resulted in the case being brought to Court.

As above.

I also feel an opportunity was missed to promote the national charities such as the NSPCC and ChildLine plus local Council initiatives including your Safer Communities team.

Whilst some may believe this kind of abuse and exploitation only happens in other towns and cities. This prosecution highlights this sickening individual lived and worked within Trafford, had access to children and was in a position of authority.

I would welcome your responses to the following questions:

1 What was the justification and reasoning behind extending the Councillors absence beyond the usual six-month rule?

Cllr Sephton made a request to council, as any member is entitled to do, for a period of extension to his absence and this was considered at council on May 24, 2017.

At the time of the request being made for a dispensation, Cllr Sephton had not been charged with any offence.

A short dispensation for Cllr Sephton from attending meetings of the Council was approved until July 30, 2017. Cllr Sephton was present at Council on July 26 and October 11 2017.

2 What financial rewards and remuneration did the councillor receive after the aforementioned six-month rule and is any of this recoverable?

Cllr Sephton has received the basic allowance payable to all members which is not recoverable and the council is obliged to pay.

3 What due diligence and monitoring is in place for the acceptable and legal use of council owned, funded and/or part funded laptops, mobile phones and tablet computers?

All members are required to abide by an Acceptable Use Policy for Trafford Council provided equipment. Removable devices (such as USB sticks) are prevented from being used on council computers and tablets and web content control is in place.

4 What whistle-blowing procedures are in place should anyone have concerns regarding any Trafford Councillor?

Members should raise concerns directly with the Monitoring Officer.

5 What background checks are currently undertaken for all existing and new councillors and are these reviewed on a regular basis?

Candidates must meet the eligibility criteria at the point of nomination to stand for elected public office. Further information can be found on the Electoral Commission website.

6 What additional background checks could be undertaken as Greater Manchester Police can complete an enhanced background check which includes a history of websites visited/search history of individuals which would highlight obvious concerns?

As above. If a member meets the eligibility criteria to stand then they are entitled to do so. If they are subsequently democratically elected, there are limited circumstances whereby removal from public office can occur. In the case of illegality, due process must be followed as has happened in this matter, which in this instance has resulted in a conviction.

7 Can you give your assurance that no one within the council or local party organisation had previously heard any allegations or complaints regarding the Councillor?

I am not aware that there was any knowledge of the allegations or complaints prior to Cllr Sephton’s arrest.

Only you know the reason for remaining silent on this serious safeguarding issue.

The allegation has been tried by jury and a conviction secured. The council takes its safeguarding duties extremely seriously and please be assured that at all times the council has fulfilled its statutory responsibilities and acted properly.

I can imagine there is some embarrassment linked to the council or party but considering this case was featured within local, regional, national and international media, your policy of silence has clearly failed.

I am very confident the residents of Trafford will reach their own conclusion on this sickening and depraved abuse of children from a Trafford councillor, but I am sure they would also welcome your support of victims, practical and helpful advice.

Kevin J Parker