‘The wrongs of the past are not extinguished but the council has changed,' says commissioner as RMBC intervention ends

PAST wrongs are not erased — but the end of Government intervention is a chance for the council to be responsible for itself once again.

That was the verdict of Sir Derek Myers, the lead commissioner parachuted in from London in 2015 to rescue “unfit for purpose” RMBC in a four-year package.

The commissioner team dwindled from five to three and Sir Derek described his 2017 resignation as very good news for Rotherham because it was another mark of progress.

The commissioners — on up to £800 a day — left in September and the Government has now formally closed the intervention period.

Sir Derek said the latest news was very welcome and added: “The wrongs of the past are not extinguished but the council has changed and deserves the opportunity to move forward and be responsible for its own success or failure once again.”

Rotherham Borough Council was placed under government control after the Casey report found significant failings, especially in relation to child sexual exploitation.

Powers were gradually returned and intervention was withdrawn early last year. But it required one final “healthcheck” — carried out by former commissioners — before formally ending on Sunday (31).

Their report said: “The council is increasingly displaying the attributes necessary for a good and continuously improving council.

“Crucially, the political and managerial leadership have re-established the council’s moral compass. 

“There is clarity on the council’s values and ethos and a whole council commitment to safeguarding young people. 

“This gives confidence that the council will be vigilant in protecting the vulnerable, will avoid back-sliding or failure to address adverse issues as they arise.”

Two risk areas were meeting the financial challenge amid continued cuts and improving staff sickness absence rates.

The Government took unprecedented action after the Casey report flagged serious concerns in the wake of the CSE scandal.

In a joint letter, communities secretary James Brokenshire and children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “We see no evidence that suggests that Government should seek to extend these directions or put in place new ones.”

Council Leader Cllr Chris Read said: “The end of the intervention is an important milestone, and one that should give residents confidence in the changes that we have made. 

“But we take nothing for granted and we continue to work hard to deliver the services that people rely on.”

Chief executive Sharon Kemp said: “The review highlighted that the progress made since September has surpassed the expectations of the former commissioners.”