On 26 February 2015, the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Eric Pickles) and the then Secretary of State for Education (Nicky Morgan), having considered the report of the inspection by Dame Louise Casey CB and 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, the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government decided that the intervention should be broad and wide ranging. He directed that Commissioners should exercise all executive functions of the authority, as well as some non-executive ones, including licensing, until the Council could exercise them in compliance with its best value duty. A team of Commissioners was appointed to exercise these functions.
On 11 February 2016, my predecessor 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. On 13 December 2016, I announced the return of licensing functions to the Council. I am pleased now to be able to report on further progress made.
In his 10 November 2016 progress report, Lead Commissioner Sir Derek Myers provided robust evidence to support his recommendation for economic growth, town centres, external partnerships and grounds maintenance to be returned to the Council. Additional information provided in December 2016 gave me sufficient assurance on the return of audit, and adult social care and NHS partnership.
The Commissioners will continue to have oversight of these six service areas to ensure continued compliance with the best value duty. With the exception of adult social care and NHS partnership, where Commissioners will have the power of direction, the other five service areas will be returned to the Council with the Commissioners having the power of advice.
Today, I have written to the Council to say that I am now ‘minded to’ return these service areas to the Council but will seek representations before making a final decision. I am placing a copy of the documents associated with these announcements in the Library of the House and on my Department’s website.