A group of child abuse victims in an English town have launched claims for compensation as outrage grows over the revelations that officials did little to stop the abuse of 1,400 children over a 16-year period.

Fifteen girls abused by gangs of men in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 are claiming up to $165,000 each for the failures of local councillors and police, the AFP news agency reported their solicitor as saying.

"Rotherham council and South Yorkshire police missed clear opportunities to prevent the sexual exploitation of dozens of girls in Rotherham," the solicitor said.

A report on Tuesday estimated that up to 1,400 children in the town had been sexually exploited.

The head of the local council, Roger Stone, resigned immediately after the publication of the report which detailed "blatant" failures including officials ignoring numerous reports of exploitation or blaming the victims.

Shaun Wright, who was in charge of Rotherham's child services during some of the time when the abuse took pace, resigned from the Labour party over the scandal. He however remains as South Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner.

"Much progress has been made since I was elected as commissioner in terms of supporting victims, taking preventive action, increasing awareness of the issue and bringing criminals to justice," Wright said in a statement.

Home secretary, Theresa May, has called for him to step down.

Five men were found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex in Rotherham in 2010.

The report said that "the majority of known perpetrators" were of Pakistani origin, including those convicted in 2010, but stressed there was "no simple link between race and child sexual exploitation."

Source: Agencies