Communities Secretary Eric Pickles today (2 June 2010) announced a package of measures to turn around Doncaster Council.
This follows an Audit Commission report that the council is not properly run, is failing, and lacks the capacity to improve.
Draft proposals include the appointment of new Chief Executive and a team of commissioners to ensure Doncaster has the experienced leadership and expert support it needs to make radical improvements.
In April this year the Audit Commission’s inspection found the council was failing Doncaster people highlighting numerous longstanding problems that they did not have the capacity or capability to fix. The main issues included:
- failing local services: the tragic events of the Edlington case is the latest in a series of failures to keep children safe; housing services are poor with a high level of empty homes; provision for vulnerable groups is poor and over half of all homes failed to meet basic decency standards
- dysfunctional politics: councillors place politics and ongoing personal antagonisms above the Doncaster people; the mayor and cabinet show a lack of effective leadership; and officers are fail to act as a corporate team
- underperforming economy: Doncaster lags well behind the national average on economic performance; an independent measure of UK local area competitiveness ranked Doncaster 355th out of 380 this year
- poor decision making: key decisions relating to schools, housing, health and economic development have been delayed due to political infighting, risking squandering funding programmes and depriving the town of vital investment
Mr Pickles said:
After 15 years of failure Doncaster people need to be properly served by their council. The dysfunctional politics, poor services and ineffective leadership, identified by the Audit Commission, all must be addressed.
All parties have agreed that intervention is needed and the package of measures we’re announcing today will ensure that Doncaster gets the proper leadership and expertise that is urgently required for turning this situation around.
We are taking these actions to ensure that a well run Doncaster Council starts to prioritise the local people it’s accountable to by creating the better, more efficient local services they’re entitled to.
A new approach
The government is setting out the approach to address these failures. The actions set out today will ensure that the council invests in the functioning and decisive governance Doncaster needs so the authority’s £450 million revenue budget is used effectively and efficiently on better public services.
Measures announced today would:
- establish a team of well respected commissioners with powers to appoint, discipline or dismiss officers and ensure council decision makers do not fail to act or act against the advice of their statutory officers
- establish a non-executive Intervention and Recovery Board to support, challenge and monitor progress delivery, alongside the commissioners, reporting to the Secretary of State as necessary
- establish an experienced team of senior officers; the current Chief Executive of Kirklees Council Rob Vincent will be appointed as the new Chief Executive of Doncaster Council who will oversee the appointment of other key officers and secure value for money from its £450 million revenue budget
The council now have time to discuss and agree the proposals before a final statutory order is introduced.
The government expects the intervention programmes to be publicly available so people can see for themselves what improvements are being made.
Baroness Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association said:
The Local Government Association Group is committed to ensuring that local government meets the highest expectations of the people it serves. Experienced elected members and senior officers have been providing support to Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council and the Local Government Association’s Deputy Chief Executive, Jo Miller, has been seconded in recent weeks as Acting Chief Executive.
The exceptional circumstances described in the Audit Commission’s Corporate Governance Inspection means that statutory intervention by government is required. The Local Government Association group will contribute to the improvement and recovery effort at Doncaster Council to ensure success.
New Chief Executive Rob Vincent said:
I am looking forward to committing myself to helping Doncaster re-find its stride and make the progress that all who know the town are looking for. I know that it is a place with a great history, some current strengths, and good prospects. It has had many problems over a number of years, and there will be difficulties in finding a confident way forward. But it is clear that many individuals, officers and politicians, remain highly committed and motivated to achieve the best for local people. I will be pleased to join them, and to help shape a successful Doncaster for the future.