A senior councillor has called for an independent inquiry into the case of a former Leeds Lord Mayor following his conviction and jailing on child pornography offences.
The leader of Leeds City Council’s opposition Conservative group Andrew Carter wants “heightened scrutiny” of the “conduct and history” of Neil Taggart, who was jailed for 32 months last month for crimes related to indecent images of children. He served as a councillor for 34 years and was also chair of the West Yorkshire Police Authority.
At yesterday’s full council meeting, Coun Carter asked council leader Judith Blake for reassurances about an internal audit inquiry, and suggested the fact that its findings were being reviewed by an Independent Safeguarding Board was “insufficient”.
“We are all horrified by the Neil Taggart saga, but what seems to have been overlooked is that for a number of years this person was the chair of the West Yorkshire Police Authority,” he said.
“I don’t know whether his illegal activities went back as far as this, but there needs to be a proper investigation that is independent, and can give reassurances, and closure if possible.
“The Local Authority cannot reputationally allow there to be any suggestion of a cover-up.
“I want the leader of Council to provide assurances that a thorough external investigation will leave no stone unturned.”
Responding to Coun Carter’s question, Coun Blake said revelations about Taggart had caused “shock and revulsion” to all his former colleagues.
“We felt we had to take this exceptionally seriously and for that reason the chief executive immediately ordered an internal audit,” she said.
“We thought very carefully about how to take this forward, and what we have decided is we want the internal audit to be as far reaching as it can be, and I understand it’s very close to completion.
“We believe the appropriate next step is to send the findings to the Independent Safeguarding chair and ask for his advice.”
Coun Carter stressed there were “additional concerns that an internal audit inquiry is unlikely to find anything” because of the sheer length of time involved.
“We should be looking further,” he said,
Coun Blake said that as far as was currently understood, none of the charges against Taggart had related to his time in office.
She acknowledged there was a need to be “as open and transparent about this as we possibly can be and do what we can do in regards to his time as councillor here.”