Communities Secretary Greg Clark today (21 January 2016) announced plans to return responsibility for the running of a limited number of services to Rotherham council - but warned that significant further improvements are needed before full powers are restored.
It follows the latest report from government-appointed commissioners to the council, and is in line with their recommendations
The functions, include housing, leisure services, education and financial services, were found by the commissioners to be operating at an adequate standard, and have sufficiently strong leadership in place to be transferred back to local democratic control.
But while he welcomed the progress made to date, Mr Clark warned that control over the remaining functions, including children’s services and licencing, would be retained by the commissioners while significant challenges remain.
Communities Secretary Greg Clark said:
Louise Casey’s report into Rotherham council made shocking reading – we must do everything we can to prevent those failings ever being repeated.
In the last 11 months, Rotherham has made improvements and so I have proposed to transfer control over some functions back from the commissioners to democratically-elected councillors.
But it’s clear there are still significant challenges to overcome before the council can fully regain the public’s confidence and trust, and so it is right that Sir Derek Myers and his team remain in place.
Improvements made - but challenges remain
In February last year, the government appointed 5 commissioners to exercise all executive functions, and some key non-executive functions, at Rotherham council.
It followed publication of Louise Casey’s report into the council’s failings, in which she identified widespread failings in governance and service delivery.
These failings contributed significantly to the child sexual exploitation outlined in an earlier report by Professor Alexis Jay.
The full list of services to be returned to council control are:
- education and schools; education for 14 to 19 years in all settings; school admissions and appeal system; youth services
- public health
- leisure services; events in parks and green spaces
- customer and cultural services, libraries, arts, customer services and welfare programmes
- planning and transportation policy; highways maintenance
- the council’s area assembly system and neighbourhood working; responsibilities under the Equalities Act
- building regulation, drainage, car parking; business regulation and enforcement (not including licensing); emergency planning
- financial services, including revenues and benefits (not including audit), ICT; legal and democratic services; corporate communications; corporate policy; procurement
- policy arising from Sheffield City Region
The council would also take over budget control in these areas, as well as budget planning.
In his latest report the Lead Commissioner identified these functions as operating to an adequate standard, having sufficiently strong senior officers in place and having suitably strong leadership from councillors to be transferred back to the council.
Lead Commissioner Sir Derek Myers said:
We are very pleased that the Secretary of State has carefully considered our proposals and at this stage is minded to agree with the commissioners that the time is right to return some limited powers to locally-elected members.
While we clearly acknowledge that there is further work to do in some areas if we are to rebuild trust and confidence in the way services are managed and delivered, we would see the restoration of at least some powers as a significant step in the right direction. We await the Secretary of State’s final decision.
See the copy of the letter sent by Communities Secretary Greg Clark to Rotherham council, as well as supporting evidence.
This proposal will now be considered by the council leadership and opposition councillors. The deadline for representations is 9.30am on 4 February 2016. The Communities Secretary will then consider any representations before making a final decision on whether to return functions to the council.
The 5 commissioners charged with the day-to-day running of Rotherham council are:
Lead Commissioner - Sir Derek Myers
Managing Director Commissioner - Stella Manzie CBE
Children’s Social Care Commissioner - Malcolm Newsam
Supporting Commissioner - Mary Ney
Supporting Commissioner - Julie Kenny CBE