Javid signals plan to return majority of powers back to Rotherham

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council is set to regain the majority of its powers, almost two years after the government appointed commissioners to oversee the local authority after an investigation into child sexual exploitation found it ‘not fit for purpose’, the communities secretary has announced.

Following recommendations by the commissioners, Sajid Javid has confirmed that he intends to return powers for services including economic growth, town centre management and the maintenance of local parks. Improved arrangements for asset management and HR are also expected in the first half of 2017.

The news comes after the DCLG handed back licensing powers to Rotherham in December. Local authority decision-making for adult social care is also set to be returned, but as work to modernise these services is still underway, commissioners will have additional oversight with the power to veto key decisions.

The proposal to hand powers back to the council, which will now be considered by the local authority and members, follows the submission of evidence from lead commissioner Sir Derek Myers.

“We have seen continued progress in more areas of the council, and I am pleased that the secretary of state for communities and local government has agreed to further functions being returned,” said Sir Derek. “We will continue to work with the council on those areas not yet returned and we would expect to make further recommendations in the coming months.”

The government-appointed commissioners have been given until March 2019 to improve and hand back all services.

484 Rotherham c.  Lynne Cameron PA Wire

Council leader Cllr Chris Read, who PSE interviewed last year about the work of the commissioners, said: “This is welcome news and another positive step in the right direction for the council, and for Rotherham.

“The announcement reflects the significant improvements which we have made across the board. But in this next phase we will continue to work hard to ensure the council improves and better serves Rotherham residents. Alongside commissioners – we are determined to complete this work.”

The DCLG has given the local authority until 24 February to make representations about the proposals, before Javid makes a final decision to return the functions to the local authority.

Last month, the communities secretary also confirmed the start of a ‘phased’ return of powers to Tower Hamlets council, enabling councillors to once again award grants to local not-for-profit organisations for the first time since December 2014.

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