A FORMER Halton Council chief executive has apologised over the handling of the child sex abuse scandal in Rotherham.

Mike Cuff left Halton in 2004 to become chief executive of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council where he worked until he retired in 2009, aged 60.

His comments were published last week in a report by Professor Alexis Jay who said she was appalled to discover that 1,400 girls had been sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013.

Professor Jay, aged 65, said: “The utter brutality is what shocked me most. It is really hard to describe it – the horrible nature of sexual acts and the brutality of the controls these girls were subjected to.

“I was taken aback at how callous, how violent, the operations were. These were girls of 11 and 12.”

Her report blamed the police for failing to take victims seriously and the authorities for ignoring three previous reports into the issue.

The leader of Rotherham Council, Roger Stone, quit immediately.

Mr Cuff said he had to “take my share of responsibility for the council’s failure to prevent the appalling abuse which has been so clearly described in this independent report.”

He said he was “truly sorry”.

He added: “It was on my watch that the organised abuse of young girls by a gang of Asian men came to light.

“This led eventually to their conviction in 2010. I know that professional social workers and the police worked well together to support the abused girls and to secure the successful prosecution of the abusers.”

He said he knew child sexual exploitation was a problem in Rotherham but had “no reason to believe that it was any greater than anywhere else.”

Five men were convicted of grooming underage girls for sex in Rotherham in 2010.

Mr Cuff, who was granted Honorary Freedom of Halton in 2004, was commended for spearheading major regeneration across Runcorn and Widnes during his 12 years running the borough.