Rotherham councillors to be handed back powers

ROTHERHAM councillors are set to take back some decision-making powers from Government-appointed commissioners after the Government agreed services were “of predominantly good quality, well-run and have strong leadership in place”.

Housing, education, public health, planning, highways, leisure, cultural services and planning policy, along with control of budgeting in these areas, could be back in local control from early next year under the proposals put forward by commissioners expected to be agreed by the Secretary of State in January.

Other areas, including children’s and adult social care and licensing, will continue to be overseen by commissioners while improvements continue.

Lead commissioner Sir Derek Myers (pictured) said: “I and my fellow commissioners are confident that Rotherham councillors are in a strong position to once again take responsibility and accountability for a number of core services, and that the organisation is fit to support them in doing so for local people.

“The council leader has shown strong and enthusiastic leadership, as have members of his advisory cabinet.   

“Together with commissioners and officers, they have driven significant improvements across services over the last nine months.

“While 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 are still in need of change and improvement, including children’s social care, but we will continue to work closely with the advisory cabinet and review this position regularly.

Residents are being asked for their views, and can put forward comments by the end of January 2016.

Council leader Cllr Chris Read welcomed the move, adding: “This is a significant step towards returning local democracy for the people of Rotherham, putting decisions about key local services back in the hands of councillors, and ensuring we are accountable to the public.

“We know that the Council's historical failings are deep-rooted and can't be solved overnight, but we are turning the corner.

“My colleagues and I are committed to doing all that needs to be done in order to restore the Council that local people deserve and which is fully democratically accountable.”

Managing director commissioner Stella Manzie, who has operated as chief executive will leave the authority in February, following a handover to new chief executive Sharon Kemp.

The full details of the proposed restoration of powers can be found at www.rotherham.gov.uk/commissioners.