Rotherham commissioners promise accountable governance

28 Apr 15

The commissioners appointed to take over the executive functions of Rotherham council have set out the decision-making process that will apply during the intervention at the authority.

Lead commissioner Sir Derek Myers has published the roles of each of the five commissioners, who will work with elected members and senior managers to run the borough. He said their decisions would be open and accountable, but also speedy.

In February, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced suspension of executive functions at the authority after a review by civil servant Louise Casey found the council was not fit for purpose. Commissioners were then appointed to take over the responsibilities of the council’s cabinet and the authorities licensing functions.  

The decision to intervene also followed the Jay report into child sexual exploitation, which found a variety of historic and serious child protection failings within the authority.

Under the new regime, councillors, local people and other interested parties will be able to make submissions on proposals from commissioners within five days. A final decision will only be made after this period for responses, unless the public interest requires a quicker decision.

Myers will be responsible for signing off all major council strategies, but will not usually take any operational decisions, it was announced on Thursday.

Managing director Stella Manzie will be the only full-time commissioner. She will lead the day-to-day operations of the council, and will also act as the council’s decision-maker in areas including finance, education, corporate governance and the day-to-day running of housing and neighbourhood services.

Commissioner Julie Kenny will lead on areas including economic growth and regeneration. She will also oversee the council’s relationships with partners.

Mary Ney will lead on decisions relating to licensing. She will also take the lead on issues around community safety and criminality, and will liaise with the police, including on the issue of child sexual exploitation and ongoing investigations.
The fifth commissioner, Malcolm Newsam, has responsibility for children’s social care.

A new advisory cabinet, led by council leader Chris Read, has also been created, which will support the commissioners. Decisions usually approved by full council, including the annual budget setting, remain unchanged, and the work of the planning board, standards committee and audit committee will continue.

Myers said commissioners had aimed to ensure as open and transparent decision-making process as possible.

‘These are unprecedented circumstances, working outside the usual rules of local democracy and decision-making, but it is absolutely crucial that we are open and accountable in delivering services to the people of Rotherham. We will be clear about what we are doing, and why we are doing it.

‘Each commissioner has a different role and responsibility and, crucially, we can take decisions both as individuals and as a group. This gives us the ability to work in a way which is very different to the previous cabinet system – i.e. without a rigid set of public meetings as a group – allowing for speedier decision-making to underpin progress across services.’

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