A failure to publish a report over two decades ago linking Asian private hire drivers to child sexual exploitation victims was not a "cover-up", a Birmingham City Council chief has insisted.
In November last year, it was claimed that the council had "buried" the report penned in 1991 into teenage girls in care.
Researcher Dr Jill Jesson, a respected academic and former Aston University lecturer, had been asked at the time by the authority to look at the issue of child prostitution and her critical two-part report showed child protection failings by social workers and other agencies.
And when she discovered links between Asian men and abused girls she was ordered to remove all reference to ethnicity and the private hire trade.
Incredibly, her full report was never published, a meeting planned to discuss it was cancelled – and all copies were to be destroyed.
But now, after investigating the alleged burial of the report, Peter Hay, the council's strategic director for people, has said: "I am assured that there was no cover-up."
But he admitted, as it was revealed this week that almost 500 West Midland children have been identified as victims of sexual exploitation in just six months, "a huge opportunity" to safeguard youngsters in the 1990s was missed.
In a report to the council's education and vulnerable children scrutiny committee, he said: "A huge opportunity to improve the safety of children in care and to build a pioneering response to the sexual exploitation of children in care was missed.
"The lesson is to not allow the issues to get lost, however uncomfortable the debate. I am sure that the current scrutiny committee will share that resolve."
He also revealed that social services was "robust" in following up the "psychological needs" of the young women highlighted in Dr Jesson's report.
He said six returned to care with sexually transmitted diseases, four became pregnant and three were physically abused, with one suffering burns and another reportedly thrown out of a moving car.
"This is compounded by the different standards of the time – for example the perception of this as 'prostitution' not 'child sexual exploitation'," he added.
And he admitted that the research would have been potentially "ground-breaking".