THE man brought in to lead the review of child safeguarding processes amid swirling allegations of sex abuse on social media has mysteriously stepped down even before starting his investigation.

Renowned academic Dr Mark Peel was only appointed at the beginning of November, but news of his departure was buried in the middle of press release from Oldham Council's communications team this afternoon (Friday, November 22).

Council leader Sean Fielding was unavailable to explain the reason for his departure in the wake of the announcement.

A communications team spokesperson said: "It was Dr Peel’s decision to step down, so you’d have to contact him for a comment."

The statement also said that the Oldham review was "likely to form part of a wider Greater Manchester review".

It said Cllr Fielding and Henri Giller, chair of Oldham Safeguarding Partnership, have jointly written to the Mayor Andy Burnham and the Greater Manchester Safeguarding Standards Board’s independent chair Jane Shuttleworth, to request that the review into safeguarding practices in the borough be combined into an extensive ongoing independent review into sexual and criminal exploitation of children and young people across the city region.

"It is their expectation that mayor Andy Burnham will appoint an independent review team to conduct the review while also ensuring that the GM Safeguarding Standards Board and Jane Shuttleworth provides assurance of the current processes," it continued.

"As well as ensuring a rigorous approach to reviewing historic practice, this approach will also ensure that Oldham benefits from being one of the first boroughs to implement recommendations that will set new standards for safeguarding practice.

"The request comes after Dr Mark Peel, who was originally commissioned by the Oldham Safeguarding Partnership, stepped down from the review prior to its commencement."

It said the remit of the GMCA review will still consider whether council, police and wider safeguarding agencies provided a suitable response to allegations of inappropriate access to young people involving shisha bars, taxi companies and children’s homes in 2012/13.

It will also, as originally planned, look at the extent to which historical actions and employment records have been adequately investigated in the case of known offenders previously employed within Oldham public services.

READ > Double probe into claims of historic child sex exploitation in Oldham

The statement went on: "This review will only focus on historical allegations relating to child sexual exploitation. There have been unsubstantiated allegations relating to Oldham Council circulating on social media, but if members of the public have evidence of improper actions by individuals or agencies in Oldham they should approach GMP directly with their concerns.

"The wider GMCA safeguarding assurance will look at current safeguarding practice across the entire partnership.

Mr Giller, chair of the Safeguarding Partnership for Oldham, is quoted as saying: “There are many advantages to combining the work because the lens on safeguarding practice in Oldham will be as great, if not greater, than what was originally planned while the independent nature of the work will not be diminished.

‘Working with GM Complex Safeguarding Hub will enable Oldham to continue to benefit from the ongoing work across GM setting new standards or safeguarding practices.”