A COUNCILLOR has called for an independent review into Bradford Council’s safeguarding unit after a former safeguarding administrator was convicted of a string of sex offences.

Keighley Town councillor Michael Westerman said the guilty verdict against Heathcliffe Bowen, 50, who worked as an administrator for Bradford Council in social services and safeguarding from 1995 to 2014, meant this review was urgently needed.

And he argued such action should have been taken when Bowen, a former Conservative Ilkley parish councillor and three-time chairman of the parish council, was first charged with sex crimes, which included grooming young boys.

Cllr Westerman, chairman of Keighley Town Council’s watch and transport committee, said Bradford Council should not have waited until the outcome of the case late last month.

He said: “Bradford needs to have independent people having a look at their safeguarding unit and seeing if it’s fit for purpose.

“What access did Bowen have while he was at the council?

“And if Bradford Council says there’s no money for this review – well they can spend £4.1 million on a car park in Bradford and £19 million on a new [public services] hub for Keighley.

“Let’s have this money used for something worthwhile instead.”

District councillor Val Slater, portfolio holder for Bradford’s health and wellbeing, responded: “Protecting our children and young people is a top priority for the council.

“The work we do with the police, the NHS and voluntary organisations across Bradford District to ensure our children are safe is inspected regularly by independent national bodies.

“Mr Bowen worked for the council in an administrative capacity in the past and had no convictions when he was appointed.

“Following his recent conviction we’ve confirmed we’ll review council processes in connection with his employment.

“We were unable to do this before now because of concerns about prejudicing the criminal proceedings. If lessons need to be learnt from the case, they will be.”

Michael Jameson, strategic director of children’s services, said: “The verdict on Mr Bowen follows a thorough and diligent police investigation.

“What this case shows is that paedophiles exist in every walk of life, but through the police and agencies working together, they can and will be caught.

“It’s important to remember the young victims behind Mr Bowen’s crimes.

“Everyone in our community needs to work together to help protect young people and prevent crimes like these happening.”

David Niven, independent chairman of Bradford Children Safeguarding Board, said: “We’re grateful that a comprehensive investigation has caught a serious offender.

“All agencies that Mr Bowen came in contact with were shocked at these offences.

“Full checks were carried out when Mr Bowen was employed and there were no convictions or concerns arising from those checks.

“However, we’ll look again at our procedures to see if there are lessons to be learnt.”