The councillor responsible for Manchester's care homes during the grooming scandal 16 years ago has apologised and said: "I wish I had known more"
Sue Cooley, the long-standing councillor for Brooklands in Wythenshawe, held the post of executive member for Health and Social Care between 2004-05.
Earlier this month, the Mayor's office published a damning and harrowing report into the activities of a 100-strong gang of paedophiles who sexually exploited young girls during that time.
The perpetrators were mainly Asian men working in the restaurant and takeaway trade in south Manchester, while the majority of victims were living in care homes and were therefore the legal responsibility of the council.
A joint police and council investigation, Operation Augusta, was launched in the wake of the death of 15-year-old Victoria Agoglia, five days after she was injected with heroin by a 50-year-old man.
However, the probe was dropped in 2005 after little more than a year later due to a 'lack of resource'.
No council officials or police officers were identified in the report commissioned by Mayor Andy Burnham.
But the Manchester Evening News has named a number of individuals who were involved in the investigation at the time from both Manchester Council and Greater Manchester Police.
Mrs Cooley, who has also served as chair of the Health and Well-being Overview and Scrutiny Committee, deputy chair of the Social Services Committee and on the Manchester Adoption Panel during 25 years service, did not comment when approached by the M.E.N last week.
However, she has now issued a statement expected to be read out in public at the full meeting of Manchester Council due to take place on Wednesday.
Mrs Cooley says although she knew of the death of Victoria Agoglia and Operation Augusta, she did not know of the scale of the abuse uncovered by Augusta.
Mr Burnham's report estimates there were 97 potential suspects and 57 potential young victims.
Mrs Cooley says she finds it 'difficult to remember' the detail of the information shared with her at time, but added: "I know that I would remember if I had been told that large numbers of suspected paedophiles were hanging around our care homes."
She says she does not recall Augusta being 'scaled down' and that police felt at the time 'it had been a success'.
Here is her statement in full:
'Not enough was done to protect the children in our care. There is no denying that'
"Like everyone here I have been appalled and deeply saddened reading the report of the investigation into the police and council operation that took place in 2003/4. The report makes painful reading and my heart goes out to the young people who suffered such horrendous abuse. And I feel angry that those who carried out that abuse got away so lightly and in some cases have never been brought to justice
"In 2002, I was elected Executive Member for Health and Care with responsibilities including; Adult Social Care, The formation of the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust, Oversight of the new working relationships between NHS and Local Authority Care Service, and Children’s Social Care.
"This included permanence for children through adoption or foster care and also the care of our children in residential homes across the city.
"During that time, I had weekly meetings and updates with the Director about a whole range of things connected to my brief. These meetings were, in the main informal and often without a formal agenda and minutes.
"I know that this is not the way things are done now. Meetings now are much more formalised. But the structure was quite new to all of us at that time.
"I do however remember the tragic death of Victoria Agoglia, and that owing to the circumstances surrounding her death a police and council operation was set up to investigate perpetrators of sexual abuse involving of some of the young people in our care.
"I was given limited information and it was always made clear to me that this was highly confidential. Obviously all of this was a long time ago and it’s difficult to remember in detail all of the information that was shared with me. But I know that I would remember if I had been told that large numbers of suspected paedophiles were hanging around our care homes.
"I do recall being told that the investigation was going to be 'scaled down' by the police. The explanation was given as a lack of resources. The police felt that it had been a success. Two men had been arrested and charged at that time and they anticipated prosecutions
"My responsibility then was to ensure that the young people who were involved were receiving all the appropriate support and counselling and that staff were also being supported, which I did.
"It has already been acknowledged that social work practice at that time was not good enough and that not enough was done to protect the children in our care. There is no denying that. For that I offer my heartfelt apologies.
"I wish that I had known more and been able to do more.
"Finally, it is my sincere hope that the perpetrators of these terrible crimes against our Manchester children will be caught and brought to justice as they should have been fifteen years ago."