New commissioners to take over scandal-hit Rotherham Council announced

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles
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The five commissioners who will take over the running of crisis-hit Rotherham Council have been named by communities secretary Eric Pickles.

Mr Pickles has also promised £250,000 to set up a new outreach programme to help victims of child sexual exploitation in the town.

The new initiative will be similar to the Risky Business scheme that provided many early warnings about the scale of abuse in the town, but was shut down by the council.

The commissioners are being appointed in the wake of the damning Casey report, which found the council remained ‘in denial’ about child grooming and deemed the local authority ‘not fit for purpose’.

Mr Pickles said Sir Derek Myers will be the Lead Commissioner, Stella Manzie will take the role of the Managing Director Commissioner and Malcolm Newsam will be nominated as Children’s Social Care Commissioner.

He said Mary Ney and Julie Kenny will be supporting commissioners.

Mr Pickles announced that he would replaced Rotherham Council’s cabinet with appointed commissioners following the Casey Report earlier this month which denounced the authority’s woeful response to CSE in the town.

Louise Casey’s report followed last year’s shocking Jay Report which described how more than 1,400 children had been subjected to rape, trafficking and grooming between 1997 and 2013.

Today, in a written Commons statement, Mr Pickles also referred to the Risky Business project in Rotherham - highlighted in both reports as a beacon of hope in the town but which was effectively closed down by the council.

He said: “The (Casey) report concludes that the critical work undertaken by Risky Business ‘is now missing from Rotherham’. This should not continue, and historic victims of child sexual exploitation should be given the help they need.

“So, accordingly, subject to being provided with an appropriate business case demonstrating value for money, I am prepared to make available £250,000 over the next two financial years for a Risky Business-style service to be established.”

Mr Pickles said the emergency measures will be in force until the end of March 2019 but said he expected a phased roll-back of powers to the council before that date.

He said he had considered representations made by the council in the last fortnight but he said: “I remain satisfied that the council is failing to comply with its best-value duty.”

He said: “It is encouraging that the council in its representations wholly accepts the conclusions in the report and welcomes the appointment of commissioners.”

Mr Pickles told the Commons after the publication off the Casey Report there had been “a complete failure of political and officer leadership in Rotherham” and said: “There is a pervading culture of bullying, sexism, suppression and misplaced political correctness.”

Today, he restated his decision to call all-out elections in Rotherham in 2016 but rejected a Ukip call to put the whole council up for election in the forthcoming May poll.

He said: “I have carefully considered this, but I am clear that making such a change only some two months before the elections is neither practicable nor desirable.

“The 2016 all-out elections, for which there will be adequate time for candidate selection and good planning, will provide a good foundation for the fresh start that Rotherham needs.”

He said: “Though it is a difficult decision to undertake such a broad central intervention, I am clear that these exceptional circumstances, in which the people of Rotherham have been so profoundly let down by their authority, call for such action.

“I am confident that the measures which I and my right honorable friend the Education Secretary are taking today will rejuvenate and improve local governance in Rotherham, restoring the faith local people can have in their council.”

Outlining the remit of the commissioners, Mr Pickles said: “The council will be required to comply with any instructions of the commissioners in relation to the exercise of those functions for which the commissioners are responsible, and to provide the commissioners at its expense with such services, amenities and administrative support as the commissioners may reasonably require, and with access to the council’s premises, documents, and to any employee or member as appears to the commissioners to be necessary.”

Sir Derek was knighted last year for services to local government in London.

Until he retired in November 2013, he was chief executive of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea at the same time.

His current roles include being chair of the board of trustees at the charity Shelter, a member of the board and chair of audit at Public Health England, a trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and the London Think Tank, the Centre for London.

In 2011 he was named the third most powerful person in local government by the Local Government Chronicle.