Skip to main content

Local Government (Doncaster)

Volume 512: debated on Wednesday 30 June 2010

On 2 June my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, announced to the House a package of intensive measures which he was proposing to turn around the governance of Doncaster metropolitan borough council after 15 years of poor governance and dysfunctional politics. He gave the authority until 23 June to make any representations on the draft direction he was proposing.

Having now given careful consideration to the representations received, we note that the authority accepts intervention is appropriate, and we recognise the commitment shown from the mayor, members and officers which has begun to address some of the outstanding issues.

I confirm we remain satisfied that there is a strong case for intervention at Doncaster metropolitan borough council, and accordingly, I have issued a direction under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999 specifying the form of intervention, together with an explanatory memorandum.

The direction requires the authority to take specific actions, specify certain functions will be exercised by the Secretary of State and specify that certain other functions will be exercised by commissioners appointed by the Secretary of State.

As empowered by the direction we have from 1 July 2010 appointed Rob Vincent to be the chief executive at Doncaster metropolitan borough council. He is an experienced and well respected chief executive, currently at Kirklees council, who will be at Doncaster for a period of 18 months. He will also make recommendations to me by 31 October 2010 as to the appointment of a monitoring officer and chief finance officer, which the direction empowers us to make.

We have also as specified in the direction appointed three commissioners—Sir John Harman, Jessica Crowe, and Julie Kenny. They will be responsible for any matter referred to them by statutory officers due to concerns about the authority’s approach. They will also be responsible for senior officer appointments, discipline and dismissal. I am delighted that each has agreed to make their expertise available to the authority to draw on and assist them in their recovery.

The direction also requires the authority to co-operate with a recovery board comprising the commissioners, chief executive, children’s board chair and five other experts who we will be appointing to provide external support and challenge to the authority and monitor and report on the progress of recovery.

I believe the intervention package we have now put in place will secure the progress that Doncaster has already begun to make, and enable necessary further significant improvements to be made. We are very grateful to the Local Government Association and others within the local government sector who have helped in the development of this intervention package, and to Jo Miller, deputy chief executive at the Local Government Association, who stepped in and provided stability as the acting chief executive at the authority during transition.

The mayor, members and officers at Doncaster, with the support this intervention package gives, now have the opportunity to address, and once and for all resolve, the long standing problems at that council so that it can provide the services and local leadership the people of Doncaster have the right to expect.

Copies of the direction and explanatory memorandum have been placed in the Library of the House.