Rotherham to resume control over some services

21 Jan 16

Rotherham is to regain responsibility for services including education, public health and housing, communities secretary Greg Clark announced, but “significant further improvements” are required to end the Whitehall intervention in the authority.

In an update provided today, Clark said that the latest report from commissioners who were appointed to run the authority last February concluded that significant challenges still needed to be overcome.

The commissioners, led by Sir Derek Myers, former chief executive of Hammersmith & Fulham and the Kensington & Chelsea London boroughs, were appointed by Clark’s predecessor Sir Eric Pickles after a review criticised the council’s dysfunctional governance.

Clark said the commissioners had concluded that some functions, which also included leisure services and some of the council’s financial functions, were found to be operating at an adequate standard. In total, 10 areas of local authority functions now had sufficiently strong leadership to be transferred back to local democratic control, which would include budget control and planning in these areas.

However, Clark warned that control over the remaining functions, including children’s services and licencing, would remain with commissioners while significant challenges remain.

He said last year’s review of the council’s functions, led by civil servant Louise Casey, had made “shocking reading” and the government needed to do everything it could to prevent those failings ever being repeated. Widespread governance failings were found to have contributed significantly to the child sexual exploitation in the authority area.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Myers said he was pleased that Clark had agreed with commissioners that the time is right to return some limited powers to locally elected councillors.

“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.”

The full list of services to be returned to council control, as set out by the Department for Communities and Local Government, is:

•    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
•    housing
•    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

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