The council have announced they plan to scrap its top unelected position as part of a radical shake-up to save costs in light of funding cuts from the Government. This means it’s likely Joanna Simons, Chief Executive of Oxfordshire County Council, will be leaving her position in June.
The announcement is timely, with pressing mounting on Ms Simons to resign following a Serious Case Review into Operation Bullfinch. The review highlighted an “oppressive culture” during the mid-2000s, with Ms Simons taking the chief executive role in 2005.
What was Operation Bullfinch?
Operation Bullfinch was a joint operation between the UK police and the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Oxfordshire. The operation was launched in 2011 in response to allegations of a paedophile ring operating in the area. Over the course of its investigation, Operation Bullfinch uncovered a network of at least seven men who had groomed, abused and exploited vulnerable girls as young as 11 years old. The men were arrested and charged with a range of offences, including rape, sexual assault, facilitating child prostitution and trafficking.
In addition to the police investigation, Operation Bullfinch included measures to protect vulnerable young people in the Oxfordshire region. For example, social workers were assigned to work closely with the victims and their families, while outreach teams offered specialist support services to those at risk. Local authorities also worked with schools, youth services and other organisations in the area to raise awareness of CSE and encourage people to report any suspected cases. The operation was heralded as a success, with the CPS noting that all those arrested had been convicted and sentenced to a total of over 100 years in prison.