Rotherham Council handed back some powers taken away in wake of child sexual exploitation scandal

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council offices
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council offices

Rotherham Council has been given back some of the decision-making powers taken away by the Government in the wake of child sexual exploitation revelations.

The political leadership of the council resigned in February last year when an independent report found that at least 1,400 children were abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 while police and council officials turned a blind eye.

Ministers intervened and appointed commissioners to run services but the Communities Secretary Greg Clark has announced he is satisfied that now is the right time to give some responsibilities back to Rotherham Council.

Mr Clark said in January that he intended to return the running of some services to the council and yesterday, in a written statement, said that while challenges remain ‘it is now appropriate to return some functions to the authority’.

But Mr Clark has stressed the services being returned do not include licensing, children’s social care or adult social care and other areas which ‘still remain high risk’.

The functions returned to the council are housing, education, public health, planning, highways, leisure, cultural services and planning policy.

Mr Clark said: “Handing back these functions will allow some democratic control to be returned and for the authority to take an important first step on the road to recovery.”

Rotherham Council’s Leader, Coun Chris Read, said: “Councillors and the executive team have been working closely with the commissioners over the last year, and this decision reflects the confidence commissioners have that these services are operating effectively and are being well led by officers and councillors.

“Dramatic change was needed in Rotherham, but the council today is a different organisation to what it was two years ago. However there is no room for complacency. We have plenty more work to do and we must stay the course now to ensure that local residents have the council that they deserve.”

The decision comes as the council moves towards a permanent strategic leadership team.

New Chief Executive Sharon Kemp started earlier this month, with three further permanent senior appointments recently announced.

Meanwhile, Coun Read has increased his cabinet to eight, having recently announced three new members.

Lead Commissioner, Sir Derek Myers, said: “A large number of improvements have been made to services over the past year, supported by the Advisory Cabinet, and the new management team in Rotherham is taking shape with a new Chief Executive now in place. The significance of these changes is not to be underestimated.

“Before we hand back further powers, we need to be absolutely certain that councillors are fully prepared, services are stable, and that the council has the public’s confidence. Whist the pace of improvement has been good, there is much more to do in some areas.

“At this time we don’t propose to hand back those services which we know still need improvement, including children’s social care. Although further progress is both necessary and expected, a good start has been made, and I would like to commend the staff of the council and members for their continuing efforts and their positive commitment to work with commissioners in the public interest.”