A government appointed inspection into the running of Rotherham borough council is being launched following Professor Jay’s inquiry into child sexual exploitation, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced today (11 September 2014).
Given the serious failings highlighted by the Jay report, using his powers under the Local Government Act 1999, the Secretary of State Eric Pickles has appointed an independent inspection of Rotherham borough council to be headed up by Louise Casey CB.
The inspection will review current governance arrangements, how the council can improve the delivery of services to children and young people, taxi licensing, examine how the council works with other providers and can improve care. It will also look at the capacity of Rotherham council to address the issues identified by the Jay report.
The inspection will include whether the council:
- allows for adequate scrutiny by councillors
- covers up information, and whether ‘whistle-blowers’ are silenced
- took and continues to take appropriate action against staff guilty of gross misconduct
- was and continues to be subject to institutionalised political correctness, affecting its decision-making on sensitive issues
- undertook and continues to undertake sufficient liaisons with other agencies, particularly the police, local health partners, and the safeguarding board
- took and continues to take sufficient steps to ensure only ‘fit and proper persons’ were permitted to hold a taxi licence
- is now taking steps address effectively past and current weaknesses or shortcomings in the exercise of its functions, and has the capacity to continue to do so
The Secretary of State has also asked for an additional report to cover any matters that arise that could help all councils to improve the delivery of their services, particularly those relating to children and young people.
The inspection report and wider recommendations for local government will be submitted to the Secretary of State Eric Pickles, who said:
One of the most important duties of local authorities is the protection of vulnerable children.
With clearly documented failures by the council on so many levels, I have decided to take the rare step of a statutory inspection, which I believe is in the public interest.
We cannot undo the permanent harm that these children have suffered. But we can learn from what went wrong and make sure that all local authorities deliver on their essential duty to protect vulnerable children.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
I was appalled by the catalogue of inexcusable failings in Rotherham exposed by Professor Jay’s inquiry, and am determined to make sure we are doing all we can to safeguard children and prosecute the people behind these terrible crimes.
The independent inspection of Rotherham metropolitan borough council announced by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government today will deliver the right scrutiny of the local authority and examine the way it works with the police and other agencies in the area.
Crucially, the inspection will help all agencies learn the lessons of Rotherham in order to prevent any repeat of the terrible dereliction of duty that occurred there.
The council’s duty under the 1999 Act is to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
Louise Casey will report to the Secretary of State by 30 November 2014, or a later date if agreed, whether or not the council is meeting its duty to secure continuous improvement in respect of its governance and the services it delivers for children and young people.
In addition and outside the scope of the statutory inspection, the Secretary of State has also asked Louise Casey to produce a separate report on matters which should be drawn to the attention of local authorities that could improve their services, particularly to children and young people.
This builds on the existing work of the Home Office led national group to tackle sexual violence against children and vulnerable people, which is bringing the full range of agencies working in this area together, to better identify those at risk and create a victim-focused culture within the police, health and children’s services.
Louise Casey was appointed by the Prime Minister in 2011 as Director General and head of the Troubled Families programme at the Department for Communities and Local Government.
She was formerly the first independent Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses of Crime and previously a Director General in the Home Office, heading up the Neighbourhood Crime and Justice Group.
Prior to that, she carried out an independent review for the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown on engaging the public in tackling crime. She has also worked in the voluntary sector as Deputy Director of the Homelessness charity Shelter. Louise was awarded the Companion of the Order of Bath (CB) in the Queen’s birthday honours list, 2008.