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Rotherham regains some powers, but significant challenges remain

Communities secretary Greg Clark MP has returned responsibility for running some services to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council after central government took over the authority early last year, but warned that significant improvements are still necessary.

Government-appointed commissioners recommended in their latest report that certain functions could already be returned to the council, which was deemed “not fit for purpose” by former secretary of state Eric Pickles.

Control over housing, leisure services, welfare programmes, financial services, public health, education, planning and transport policy, Sheffield City Region policy and budget planning across these areas will be returned to Rotherham.

But Clark retained central powers over the remaining functions, including adult social care, children’s services and audit, with significant challenges across these continuing to pose high risks.

“Louise Casey’s report into Rotherham council made shocking reading – we must do everything we can to prevent those failings ever being repeated,” he said.

“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.”

In February last year, Pickles appointed five commissioners to exercise all executive functions and key non-executive functions at the council, following Casey’s scathing report.

Her investigation – following on from the influential Jay Report, which found that at least 1,400 children in the area had been sexually exploited – revealed a culture of bullying, sexism, suppression and “misplaced political correctness” at the authority.

She also found the council was in denial about what had happened, with 70% of its councillors, including cabinet members, disputing Jay’s findings. At the time, the borough council’s entire cabinet also resigned en masse.

A year on, lead commissioner Sir Derek Myers said the functions being returned to Rotherham were operating “to an adequate standard”, with sufficiently strong senior officers in place to guide them, and “suitably strong” councillor leadership to be transferred back to the council.

“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,” Myers said.

“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.”

According to the council, there has been significant activity since November to ensure the public was aware of the commissioners’ proposal to restore local powers.

There will now be a period for further comment and consultation prior to a final decision being made by Clark next month.

(Top image c. Lynne Cameron, PA Wire)


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