In February 2015, the Government appointed five commissioners to exercise all executive functions and some non-executive functions at Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. It followed critical reports by Baroness Alexis Jay and Dame Louise Casey, which found significant failings at the council contributing to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.
On 9 February 2017, I announced my intention, after careful consideration of the recommendation of the commissioner team, to return six service areas to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council—adult social care and the council’s partnership with the NHS, external partnerships, economic growth, town centre, grounds maintenance and audit. On the same day, representations were invited from the authority regarding this intention. I have now considered the representations, including from the leader and the chief executive, and I am satisfied that the council is now able to exercise functions relating to these service areas in compliance with the best value duty, and that the people of Rotherham can have confidence that this will be the case.
The leader and the chief executive also made representations for the return of the power to appoint council representatives to external bodies. The return of this power was also recommended by the lead commissioner in his letter of 10 February. I am also satisfied that the council is able to exercise this function in accordance with the best value duty.
Therefore, today I am exercising my powers under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999 to return seven functions to the council. The Education Secretary and I have issued further directions amending the directions issued on 13 December 2016 to do so. Handing back these powers increases democratic control and is a significant milestone for the council, which has demonstrated steady progress in its improvement journey.
With effect from 21 March, councillors will be responsible for decision making in these seven areas. The commissioners will continue to provide oversight on these areas as well as the set of functions returned last year and ensure that they are exercised in accordance with the statutory best value duty. Commissioners also continue to retain powers in additional service areas including children’s services (including all services relating to child sexual exploitation) as well as the appointment of statutory officers.
Sir Derek Myers, the lead commissioner, will also be stepping down at the end of this month having overseen the return of three quarters of services areas to the council over a two year period. I am grateful for the leadership he has shown in taking a failing authority in hand, and steering it through a rapid and wide-ranging improvement journey. As there is now a reduced role for commissioners, I will not be appointing any additional commissioners. Commissioner Ney will become Rotherham’s lead commissioner with effect from 1 April 2017.