The entire Rotherham Council will be forced to hold a fresh ‘all-out election’ by Government order in response to today’s damning findings into its response to child sex exploitation.
It means every single seat on Rotherham’s Council will be up for grabs, with all current councillors being forced to stand again and risk being voted out.
Rotherham Council has 14 days to respond to the proposals put forward by Secretary of State Eric Pickles, who slammed the council for ‘so seriously failing the people of Rotherham’.
The action comes after a new report was published which revealed that Rotherham Council is still in denial about the extent of the child abuse scandal in the town, in the wake of the Jay Report.
The explosive report prompted the immediate resignation of the entire cabinet and the council’s leader Paul Lakin.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles said today: “In line with procedures laid down in the Local Government Act 1999, I am today (writing to the council to ask them if they wish to make representations on Louise Casey’s report and on the intervention package I am proposing.
“My proposals are designed to give the council the new start it needs and to put an immediate end to the council’s on-going service and governance failure.
“To give that new start, I am seeking to make an order under the Local Government Act 2000 to move Rotherham council to holding all-out elections in 2016 and every fourth year thereafter.
“The 2016 elections will be an opportunity for the people of Rotherham to renew the membership of their council, and to elect those they have confidence in.
“In the immediate term I am minded to appoint commissioners who will provide new leadership, taking over the roles of the current wholly dysfunctional cabinet.
“I am proposing they will therefore initially exercise all the functions currently exercised by the cabinet – that is all the council’s executive functions.
“Their responsibilities will thus include children’s and young peoples’ services, and adult care services.
“I am also proposing that the commissioners will exercise other functions of the council where there can be no confidence in the council’s ability to act responsibly.
“Louise Casey’s report uncovered serious weaknesses in the council’s taxi licensing where sufficient steps to ensure only fit and proper persons are permitted to hold taxi licenses have not been, and are not being undertaken.
“There can be no confidence in the council’s Licensing Committee.
“I am thus minded that the commissioners will take control of all the council’s licensing functions.
“And I am proposing that the commissioners have the functions of appointing the chief executive, chief finance officer and monitoring officer, and of nominating members to other bodies.
“In exercising all these responsibilities, I expect the commissioners to have appropriate regard to any views the council’s members may have on those matters.
“It is because the council is so seriously failing the people of Rotherham, and particularly some of the most vulnerable in that borough, that I am proposing to take this wholly exceptional step of putting all these responsibilities for a time in the hands of commissioners appointed and accountable to me.
“Finally, I also propose to end tax-payer funded reward for failure by requiring the council to stop special responsibility allowances for cabinet members without functions while commissioners are in post.
“The council now has 14 days to make representations to me on the report and on my proposed intervention package.
“I shall then carefully consider any representations made and decide how to proceed.
“The coalition government is committed to strengthening local government per se and local government accountability. But the voices of the victims have to be clearly heard.”
“The crimes committed against children is so appalling, the council’s remedy is so utterly inadequate, that the government cannot in good conscious turn a blind eye.
“These are exceptional circumstances that justify Whitehall’s intervention so we can make the council address its failings and prevent this ever happening again. I believe the public both in Rotherham and across the country would expect nothing less.
“The intervention package I am proposing is broad and wide ranging.
“It would only be justified in the most exceptional case.
“Rotherham is I believe such a case, a truly rare case where the children of Rotherham have so badly been let down by those elected to serve them.
“Councils across England on the whole have a good record of service and are looking after their local communities.
“They are the heart of localism. This is something to protect and cherish.
“The action I am proposing today is to restore good local governance to Rotherham, where all can have confidence again in their council and they can take great pride in their borough.”