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2010, dev­as­tat­ing ded­i­cated staff. One pro­fes­sional was so de­ter­mined for the project to suc­ceed she of­fered to work for free. Oth­ers feared the coun­cil was scared to up­set mi­nor­ity groups, as a large num­ber of per­pe­tra­tors came from the Pak­istani her­itage com­mu­nity.

Our source said: “Many peo­ple were des­per­ately up­set when the bid was with­drawn. The grant was a com­plete gift. The ex­cuse given by the coun­cil was money, but it wouldn’t have cost a penny, so that didn’t make sense.

“We feel they thought it would bring shame on Telford by ad­mit­ting there was a prob­lem but the same is­sues were be­ing faced in other places, like Rother­ham and Derby.

“We also feared they didn’t want to high­light cer­tain ethnic mi­nor­ity groups as per­pe­tra­tors, as mul­ti­cul­tural re­la­tions in the town had his­tor­i­cally been very good.”

The project was set to be named SITEMAP, which stood for Stop­ping In­ter­nal Traf­fick­ing and Ex­ploita­tion Through Multi Agency Part­ner­ship.

It would have in­volved coun­cil staff vis­it­ing po­lice, NHS and schools to help staff spot early signs of child sex­ual ex­ploita­tion.

Staff would be trained on how to in­ter­vene and sign­post kids to rel­e­vant ser­vices.

The source said: “One key strand was get­ting into res­i­den­tial chil­dren’s homes be­cause chil­dren in care were seen as be­ing par­tic­u­larly vulnerable.

“But that was only one part of it. This train­ing could have been rolled out to hun­dreds of pro­fes­sion­als, from teach­ing assistants to po­lice com­mu­nity sup­port of­fi­cers.”

Since turn­ing the fund­ing down, Telford and Wrekin Coun­cil has re­ceived hun­dreds of child sex­ual ex­ploita­tion re­fer­rals.

Its spe­cial­ist abuse project sup­ported 268 young peo­ple be­tween 2011 and 2018 and has been forced to re­cruit ex­tra staff due to the vol­ume of work.

And files un­cov­ered by the Sun­day Mirror show pro­fes­sion­als re­peat­edly failed to spot signs of abuse af­ter the project was canned.

Shock­ingly, girls were blamed for their own or­deals and de­scribed by coun­cil staff as “pros­ti­tutes” in doc­u­ments from 2013.

Oth­ers were made to sign “be­hav­iour con­tracts” which asked them to ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for symp­toms of be­ing groomed.

A spokesman for Telford and Wrekin Coun­cil said: “The fund­ing is­sue re­ferred to re­lates to when the coun­cil’s previous ad­min­is­tra­tion was in con­trol of the au­thor­ity and a previous chief ex­ec­u­tive and di­rec­tor of chil­dren’s ser­vices were in post, who left in 2011.

“As a coun­cil, we are com­mit­ted to co-op­er­at­ing with the independen­t in­quiry into child sex­ual ex­ploita­tion.

“We have also com­mit­ted to in­vest­ing in tack­ling child sex­ual ex­ploita­tion and sup­port­ing victims and sur­vivors.”

Tory coun­cil­lor An­drew Eade, who led the lo­cal au­thor­ity at the time, said: “It would be highly im­proper to pass comment at this time, with the im­mi­nent com­mence­ment of the in­quiry.

“We called for and fought hard for the in­quiry and will be giv­ing ev­i­dence.”

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