The government’s intervention in Rotherham MBC following systemic failures at the council to protect children from sexual exploitation is set to end after three years.
Housing and communities secretary James Brokenshire today in a statement announced he was “minded to” return all powers to the council, including children’s social care, and withdraw the three government commissioners.
He added this was on the condition Rotherham receives an independent review before March next year.
Mr Brokenshire said: “Vulnerable young people were repeatedly failed in Rotherham, which is why the government stepped in to ensure these errors can never occur again.
“The council has made strong progress and, having carefully considered evidence provided by our commissioners, I am minded to return all powers.
“This is not a decision I take lightly, but I am assured the council has turned itself around and is now providing the services that its residents deserve and expect.”
The government has gradually returned powers to the council since the intervention in 2015.
Last month, Rotherham’s commissioners, led by Mary Ney, recommended to ministers that the intervention should end.
Rotherham children’s services were rated ‘good’ in January for the first time since the child sexual exploitation scandal in the town.
However, the council in April warned the next few years will be “very challenging” as spending on adult and children’s social care services has left a £30m black hole in its finances.
Responding to today’s announcement Rotherham’s leader Chris Read (Lab) said: “Today’s announcement is a reflection of more than three years of hard work by lots of people – our staff, commissioners and councillors – who were all united in determination that the people of Rotherham should be better served than they had been in the past.
“The council today is a very different organisation to the one I became leader of in 2015. It is more open to challenge, more focussed on priorities, more disciplined in delivery of services. Critically that means that the way we respond to the needs of our most vulnerable children and families has been transformed. It also means that whilst we are proud of the progress we’ve made, we will not lose sight of the challenges ahead and the continuing need to change and improve over the coming years.”
Chief executive Sharon Kemp added: “This reflects the improvement journey we have been on in the last three years which has seen vast changes here at the council. We will continue to keep on improving and will be happy to take part in the final review.”
Ms Ney said: “Commissioners have seen significant improvements in Rotherham Council due to the hard work and commitment of councillors and staff . We are confident that the leadership of the council is strong and that Rotherham Council will continue to improve.”