Children's home with rapist as neighbour

HUNDREDS of thousands of pounds was spent by council chiefs buying a detached village house for a children's home - only for the entire scheme to be scrapped once it emerged a convicted sex offender lived next door.

Laurence Cawley

HUNDREDS of thousands of pounds was spent by council chiefs buying a detached village house for a children's home - only for the entire scheme to be scrapped once it emerged a convicted sex offender lived next door.

Building work on the five bedroom property near Bury St Edmunds had got underway when Suffolk County Council - which bought the house valued by agents at between �450,000 and �500,000 - found out about the neighbour's conviction.

He was jailed for eight years in 2002 for two rapes and a number of counts of indecent assault.


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Critics last night rounded on the council for not carrying out adequate checks as to whether the location was suitable for the home - intended to cater for four youngsters while an existing children's home in Bury is rebuilt.

Mark Ereira, Green and independent spokesman on children and young people issues at the county council, has demanded an urgent investigation into the matter.

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He said: “It has become clear something has gone terribly remiss.

“I know my colleagues at the county council will have the care and safety of its children and young people as their first priority.

“But I think it is a huge failure of diligence particularly bearing in mind this property was for looked after children who are often incredibly vulnerable.”

Simon White, director for children and young people at the authority, said they were reviewing procedures as a result of the case.

He explained: “We purchased a building as a temporary children's home and work had started to renovate the property.

“These works have stopped and we will find alternative accommodation for the children while their permanent home is built in Bury St Edmunds.

“We will now review our current arrangements and what further checks we can put in place prior to undertaking any future development.”

However, a spokeswoman for the Taxpayers' Alliance described the episode as “an absolute shambles and a waste of a small fortune of taxpayers' money”.

She added: “It is not only a question of wasted money but also of where these children are going to go now. It is going to cost the council still more money.”

The mother of one of the residents living nearby, who asked not to be named, said she was stunned to learn the reason the scheme had been shelved.

“I would have thought they would have checked first. I think it has been handled very badly. They should have checked everything first.”

The future of the five bedroom property is now unclear. The first option for the council is to use it for another purpose, a second is to sell it.

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