JOANNA Simons has resisted calls for her resignation and refused to say if she would take a pay off when she leaves Oxfordshire County Council.

The chief executive yesterday apologised to the victims identified by Operation Bullfinch on behalf of the local authority – but refused to take personal responsibility for the failings identified by the Serious Case Review.

She told the Oxford Mail she had done her “absolute best”to put things right and added: “If I had only known sooner I would have done something sooner.”

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Miss Simons also rejected claims made in the review, attributed to middle managers, that the county council had an “oppressive culture”

during the mid-2000s, which meant issues were not raised with senior managers.

In his review Alan Bedford wrote: “Middle managers told the CSC Review that [...] ‘if they took issues to senior managers it would result in criticism and blame and so they learned not to escalate, but to try and manage things themselves’.”

He also quoted a former county council director as saying: “The culture [...] was really trying to avoid the issues and pretend they weren’t there and [there was] no sense of urgency. [...] People were not open with me.”

Miss Simons said: “What we have tried our very hardest to do, over the time I’ve been here, is to have the right culture, right across the county council. It is quite clear that things were not right and we have been very open in terms of the fact that mistakes were made and attitudes in social work were not right five or 10 years ago.

“It was not right and we are making no secret of that, and we apologise. We have done a lot to change that over the last five years.

“Sadly I can’t change the past. What I have been able to do in the last four years is to make sure that things have changed and we are not the same organisation in children’s social care now as we were then.”

She added: “The issue with escalation was there with every single agency, it was there with the police, it was there with the city council, it was there in the health service.

This is everybody’s responsibility.”

Asked if she took personal responsibility for failings at the time when she was chief executive, which she became in 2005, Miss Simons said: “We all take responsibility.”

And questioned about if she would take a redundancy package, such as the nearly £600,000 previously proposed, she said: “It’s a hypothetical situation, I can’t answer that when it’s not something that’s on the table.”

One of the first to call for Miss Simon’s departure was Catherine Bearder, the Member of the European Parliament for South East England.

She said: “Rather than waiting until the summer Joanna Simons must step down now.

She must take responsibility for these endemic failings.”

Mrs Bearder said: “The buck stops with her. You can’t keep hiding behind ‘it was someone else’s job’ when you are the chief executive.

These girls were in care. That four-letter word means something.”