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Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Volume 615: debated on Wednesday 19 October 2016

On 26 February 2015, the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the then Secretary of State for Education, having considered the report of the inspection by Dame Louise Casey CB and the advice note from Sir Michael Wilshaw (HM Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills), concluded that it was both necessary and expedient for them to exercise their intervention powers, as Rotherham metropolitan borough council was failing to comply with its best value duty. Due to the extent and the gravity of the failings in the council, my right hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Sir Eric Pickles) rightly decided that the intervention should be broad and wide ranging. It was directed that commissioners should exercise many of the authority’s functions until the council could exercise them in compliance with its best value duty. A team of commissioners was appointed to exercise all executive functions of the authority, as well as some non-executive ones, including licensing.

On 11 February 2016, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) returned certain functions to the council, including education, housing and planning. He was satisfied with the progress made and that the council was able to exercise the identified functions in compliance with the best value duty. Returning these functions was the start of building effective and accountable political leadership and represented a clear milestone on the road to recovery. I am pleased now to be able to report on further progress made.

In his 10 May and 11 August 2016 progress reports, Lead Commissioner Sir Derek Myers recommended that the licensing functions should be returned to the council and laid out strong and compelling evidence for this. The collective evidence demonstrates that the key objectives of the intervention, in relation to licensing, have been delivered. It is my assessment that the weaknesses in licensing identified in the Casey report have been addressed and the service is now functioning effectively. Officers and members have recognised the need for and implemented fundamental cultural change, and advisory board members, in particular the chair, are more capable and confident in their role. This marks significant progress, as licensing was one of the council’s services implicated by the Casey report as contributing to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

On the basis of this progress, I am now satisfied that the council could exercise the licensing function in compliance with its best value duty and I am consulting on revising directions accordingly. The commissioners will continue to have oversight of the service to ensure continued compliance with this duty.

I am placing a copy of the documents associated with these announcements in the Library of the House and on my Department’s website.