Taxi licencing powers are to be returned to Rotherham Council following improvements in the wake of the child sexual exploitation scandal.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has announced there will be a ‘phased’ return of powers to the authority, with Government-appointed commissioners continuing to oversee licensing decisions until March 2019.
Commissioners were appointed to run the council in February 2015 after critical reports by Baroness Alexis Jay and Dame Louise Casey highlighted how poor policies and procedures with taxi licensing had contributed to child abuse in Rotherham.
Taxis in the town now have to be fitted with cameras as part of reforms of the licensing system.
Mr Javid said: “I’ve seen for myself how Rotherham councillors have made progress over the past year. It is now appropriate for them to take back control over licensing.
“However, keeping people in the borough safe is a priority for this government. This is why I’ve asked the commissioners to continue to keep a watchful eye over the decisions that are taken.
“I consider this phased approach to be the best way to return powers to elected councillors as soon as is practically possible, while at the same time ensuring that the failings of the past are not repeated.”
Commissioners will continue to run children’s social care services, adult social care and audit functions in Rotherham.
MP John Healey has welcomed the return of the powers.
He said: “The return of licensing powers to Rotherham is another significant step back to being a council run by elected councillors that answer to local residents.
“I wrote to the Communities Secretary to back lead commissioner Sir Derek Myers’ view that ministers should make this move.
“There has been a great deal of work done by councillors alongside the commissioners to overhaul our local licensing system, and we now have a tough regime in Rotherham that other areas look to learn from.
“The decision is a further mark of confidence from ministers in the changes and leadership of the council, and it is important that this work continues with the aim of taking back all responsibilities in the future.”