Pickles to suspend executive functions at ‘dysfunctional’ Rotherham

4 Feb 15

Commissioners are to be sent in to run all the executive functions of Rotherham Borough Council following a damning report into the authority’s governance.

Local government secretary Eric Pickles set out the wide-ranging intervention in the House of Commons today after a report by Louise Casey found the authority was not fit for purpose and was failing in its legal duties to protect vulnerable children and young people from harm.


Pickles commissioned Casey, the director general in his department’s troubled families unit, to undertake a statutory governance review following a report, which found a variety of historic and serious child protection failings within the authority.

The initial examination, carried out by Alexis Jay, a former chief social work adviser to the Scottish Government, found an estimated 1,400 young people were being sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013.

Casey found that, despite Jay’s findings, the council continued to demonstrate ‘a resolute denial’ of what happened in the borough, including a failure to recognise that child sexual exploitation remained a serious problem.

‘We have concluded that Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council does not have strong enough political and managerial leadership to guide the borough out of its present difficulties and put it back on a path to success,’ Casey stated.

Following publication of the report, Pickles told MPs that he was satisfied the report demonstrated the council was failing in its duties.

‘I am minded to appoint commissioners who will provide new leadership, taking over the roles of the current wholly dysfunctional cabinet,’ he said.

‘I am proposing they will therefore initially exercise all the functions currently exercised by the cabinet – that is all the council’s executive functions. Their responsibilities will thus include children’s and young peoples’ services and adult care services.

‘I am also proposing that the commissioners will exercise other functions of the council where there can be no confidence in the council’s ability to act responsibly.’

Five commissioners will take over the executive functions, and would report to him. This will be made up of a lead commissioner, one with a ‘managing director’ role to lead the oversight of service and governance improvement, and a children’s commissioner appointed by the education secretary. Two further commissioners would support their work.

‘I am proposing that the commissioners have the functions of appointing the chief executive, chief finance officer and monitoring officer, and of nominating members to other bodies,’ Pickles added.

The commissioners would have ‘appropriate regard’ to the views of councillors, Pickles said, and would report every three months on whether functions could be returned to democratic control.

He also announced that he would seek to move the council to holding all-out elections next year, and every fourth year thereafter, instead of the current system of one-third elections.

‘The 2016 elections will be an opportunity for the people of Rotherham to renew the membership of their council, and to elect those they have confidence in.

‘My hope and expectation is that this roll-back [from commissioners to council leaders] can soon begin, and after the 2016 elections major services will be able to be returned, with the council resuming full responsibility for its range of services within four years.’

The authority has 14 days to make representations on the intervention.

Responding to the announcement, the council’s cabinet issued a joint statement.

‘The author [Louise Casey] clearly has no confidence in the current political leadership of Rotherham Borough Council,’ it stated.

‘As a cabinet, whatever the details, as the political leadership of the council we must take responsibility. We therefore announce our intention to resign our positions as soon as transitional arrangements can be put in place.’

 

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