Communities secretary Eric Pickles has announced plans to bring statutory corporate intervention at Doncaster MBC to an early close.
The intervention is due to close once a children’s services trust has been set up – expected by the end of September.
The news follows last week’s peer review report, which found Doncaster MBC to be “functioning well” and, with the exception of its children’s services, to be “no longer an outlier” on performance.
In 2010 Doncaster was subjected to statutory intervention in which the council was overseen by three commissioners, following what Mr Pickles described as “serious failings in the council’s corporate governance”. The intervention was scheduled to end on 31 July 2015.
But in a written ministerial statement, Mr Pickles said: “It is clear to me that, given the level of improvement that Doncaster has now achieved, their firm plans for the future, and their readiness to engage with the wider local government sector on improvement, continuing the statutory corporate intervention will add little, if any, value.”
He added: “Accordingly, I intend to bring the statutory corporate intervention to an early close.”
Mr Pickles said a statutory direction that would allow the children’s services trust to be formally established would be published shortly.
He said: “I am proposing to end the statutory corporate intervention as soon as the trust is fully up and running, which I expect to be by the end of September.
“While statutory intervention is rightly a measure of last resort, its use at Doncaster is a clear demonstration of how appropriate intervention can be a powerful means of successfully addressing deep-rooted failings in a council and ensuring that it is able to provide the leadership and local services that local communities rightly expect.”
Jo Miller, Doncaster’s chief executive, told LGC the peer review had been an important factor behind Mr Pickles’ decision to end the intervention. “It would have been difficult for the secretary of state to take a view to the extent he has without that independent assessment of where the authority was at.”
She said sector-led improvement was “more challenging and more honest” than other forms of intervention such as government oversight and previous Audit Commission checks.
“When you’re opening yourself up to challenge, you’re saying to people, I’d like you to dig deep here, it’s harder,” she said.
“These giants in the sector like [former chief executive of Hammersmith & Fulham LBC and Kensington & Chelsea RBC] Derek Myers and [Lewisham mayor] Steve Bullock [who took part in Doncaster’s peer review] wouldn’t stake their reputation on giving someone a free pass,” she said.
Under the government’s intervention plan, Doncaster was overseen by Jessica Crowe, executive director of the Centre for Public Scrutiny, Julie Kenny, managing director of the security equipment firm Pyronix Ltd, and Rob Sykes, former chief executive of Worcestershire CC, who acted as commissioners. Its children’s services were overseen by Alan Wood, director of children’s services at Hackney LBC.