New plan to help Rotherham ‘reclaim its identity’ in wake of grooming scandal

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Proposals to make major improvements at Rotherham Council will help the town ‘reclaim its identity’ following the grooming scandal, a Government-appointed commissioner has said.

A new ‘Improvement Plan’ has been drawn up for the authority as part of its takeover by five commissioners brought in after civil servant Louise Casey’s report in February found the council was still in denial about child sexual exploitation and was ‘not fit for purpose’.

In the report, managing director commissioner Stella Manzie said the intention of the planned changes is to restore public confidence in the authority.

She said: “Rotherham wants to reclaim its identity. Rather than being associated with child sexual exploitation it wants to be known as a place where people enjoy living and families have no fears about their children’s safety and have confidence in their future; a place to do business, earn a living and enjoy leisure time.

“It will, however, only be able to do this by drawing on its own historic strengths, not least invention and hard work, using all its imagination and steely determination to change the current reality of the borough.”

The improvement plan is set to be agreed by councillors on Friday, ahead of being sent to the new Local Government Secretary Greg Clark.

Proposed changes include the introduction of an advisory cabinet of councillors to help guide commissioners’ decisions, a new management structure and stronger scrutiny of issues relating to child sexual exploitation, meeting budget cuts and integrating health and social care services.

Focus groups with abuse survivors and local residents will also be set up to get feedback on the council’s performance.

The commissioners are due to be in charge until 2019 but speaking at a press briefing, Commissioner Manzie said the group will be ‘very disappointed’ if they are still in post at that stage.

She said there is likely to be a gradual transfer of powers back to councillors and managers, with the involvement of commissioners being steadily reduced over time.

Council leader Chris Read said: “Tragedies of the scale of Rotherham don’t happen because of one person or one failing, it is because systems break down. What we see in this improvement plan is the beginnings of putting things on the right footing for Rotherham.”