Thursday, May 28, 2015

News: Elected mayor for Rotherham?

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An elected mayor is one of the options that could replace the previous decision-making system at Rotherham Council which created a "wholly dysfunctional" cabinet.

After a number of reports highlighted serious failings across the authority, an intervention package was announced which saw commissioners appointed to provide new leadership and take on all executive functions of the authority.

Commissioners were asked to review the governance arrangements by the Secretary of State and suggestions had been made to change the governance arrangements to make them more transparent and accountable. He asked the Commissioners for their views to see what would be the most effective and efficient form of governance.

Eric Pickles, the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government said in the House of Commons when announcing the intervention: "It has also been suggested that the governance of the Authority could be improved – made more transparent and accountable - if it were changed to the committee system.

"Before taking any steps to implement such a change, I will be inviting the Commissioners views as to what they see would be the most effective and efficient form of governance for the Authority. I am also open to representations from the public."

The Council has used a "strong" Leader and Cabinet form of executive which carried out all of the Council's functions that are not the responsibility of any other part of the Council, whether by law or under the Constitution. Executive functions include key decisions taken by the Cabinet that generally include decisions relating to incurring significant expenditure or are significant in terms of its effects on communities living or working in an area. Cabinet members were delegated powers to make decisions regarding council undertakings that are within their remit and a number of committees were used to deal with some of its functions.

The Commissioners also exercise other functions of the council "where there can be no confidence in the council's ability to act responsibly."

Now details of a Governance Review have been published with the first step to bring together elected members to review and examine the issue and report the views of the political parties and of the independent councillors to the Commissioners.

The earliest a new decision-making system could be implemented in Rotherham would be at the Annual Meeting in May 2016, after the all out elections.

The options include continuing with the Leader and Cabinet system or changing to a mayoral system with a directly elected executive mayor, who appoints a cabinet made up of other councillors, who may also have decision making powers. The third option is to switch to a committee system where most decisions are made by committees, which comprise a range of councillors, to reflect the political balance of the Council.

Variations and hybrid models could also be adopted and the review group of current councillors will assess the options and make recommendations on the way forward for the Council by December 2015 at the latest.

Opposition councillors in Rotherham have long called for a change to the committee system.

A new managerial structure at the local authority is also being proposed by the Commissioners. It involves creating a new directorate called Community Well-being and Housing and creating the senior posts of strategic director finance and corporate services and assistant chief executive (focusing on Human Resources, Democratic Services, Communications, Partnerships, Policy and Performance). A number of new assistant director posts are also proposed.

A new corporate performance team is set to be established, as is the creation of the Equalities function to include responsibilities for helping to support cohesion.

The current Environment and Development Services directorate is set to continue with responsibility for the management of commercial and service property and the Licensing function will remain permanently in its new home in Streetpride. With the new Community Well-being and Housing Directorate to include Adults Services and most of Housing and Neighbourhoods Services, directors in Environment and Development Services will be able spend more time on strategies for job creation and skills.

Advertising for a new chief executive of the council is expected to take place in Autumn 2015.

Rotherham Council website

Images: proAV

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