Powers over licensing including taxi services are to return to Rotherham council, but government-appointed commissioners will continue to oversee these decisions, Sajid Javid announced today (13 December 2016).
The Communities Secretary said this “phased approach” would ensure these new responsibilities could be returned in a way that secures the safety of the area’s most vulnerable residents.
It follows advice from the Lead Commissioner, Sir Derek Myers, who has provided robust evidence that sufficient improvements have been made for control over licensing functions to be returned to directly-elected councillors.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said:
I’ve seen for myself how Rotherham councillors have made progress over the past year. It is now appropriate for them to take back control over licensing.
However, keeping people in the borough safe is a priority for this government. This is why I’ve asked the commissioners to continue to keep a watchful eye over the decisions that are taken.
I consider this phased approach to be the best way to return powers to elected councillors as soon as is practically possible, while at the same time ensuring that the failings of the past are not repeated.
Reforms to increase protection
In February last year, the government appointed 5 commissioners to exercise all executive functions and some non-executive functions at Rotherham council.
It followed critical reports by Baroness Alexis Jay and Dame Louise Casey, which found significant failings at the council including poor policies and procedures with taxi licensing contributing to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.
Since then the commissioners, led by Sir Derek Myers, have overseen significant reforms of the service, including:
- additional training for councillors and drivers
- cameras and audio recording equipment fitted in taxis – for the safety of passengers and with regard to Information Commissioner guidance on data protection
- an enhanced ‘fit and proper person’ test for existing and prospective drivers
These changes mean Rotherham’s taxi licensing policies and procedures have considerably raised the bar for best practice across councils in England.
Today, Sajid Javid confirmed these responsibilities will now return to Rotherham council, following consultation with local residents.
However, the commissioners will continue to oversee licensing decisions until 31 March 2019 – ensuring a smooth transition of these powers to councillors in a way that ensures the continued safety of local residents.
Today’s changes do not relate to any other powers – meaning commissioners will continue to run children’s social care services, adult social care and audit functions.
The 4 commissioners charged with the day-to-day running of Rotherham council are:
- Lead Commissioner – Sir Derek Myers
- Children’s Social Care Commissioner – Patricia Bradwell
- Supporting Commissioner – Mary Ney
- Supporting Commissioner – Julie Kenny CBE
Stella Manzie also served as a Managing Director Commissioner from February 2015 to February 2016.