Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Government control of Doncaster Council 'set to end early'

Doncaster Civic Offices
Image caption The government has said intevention at Doncaster Council could end in September

Government control of a "failing" South Yorkshire council could end a year ahead of schedule.

Doncaster Council has been overseen by the Department for Communities and Local Government since 2010.

Intervention was due to end in July 2015 but Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said it could end in September.

The running of children's services, which has been overseen by the government since 2009, will still be transferred to an independent trust.

The council was taken over shortly after an Audit Commission report said it was "failing".

It said the people of Doncaster were "not well served" by the council and political rivalries were being given priority over "much-needed improvements" to services.

But a review by the Local Government Association found the authority had "materially improved".

Mr Pickles said: "It is clear to me that, given the level of improvement that Doncaster has now achieved, their firm plans for the future, and their readiness to engage with the wider local government sector on improvement, continuing the statutory corporate intervention will add little, if any, value."


BBC Look North's James Vincent

For the last four years, Doncaster councillors have not been allowed to run their own town.

After years of failure and dysfunction, the government decided it needed to send a team in to sort Doncaster out. The bad management first started to show itself in children's services, but the government decided the whole council needed its guidance.

The council has been working hard to shake off the commissioners who were sent in, and today, it has paid off. But the area where the problems started will still be kept out of the council's hands.

A new independent trust is being set up to control children's services. They may be celebrating at the new council offices, but the government still doesn't trust the council enough to run its own department keeping children safe.

Ros Jones, mayor of Doncaster, said she was delighted intervention was ending early.

She said: "This came about because we had a review that said Doncaster was no different from any other [council] and in truth, was in front of others, that we are going in the right direction.

"But we won't sit on our laurels, we will continue to drive improvement for this borough. The people deserve it and we will do it."

In March 2009, the government ordered a takeover of Doncaster's children's services after the deaths of seven children in the district through abuse or neglect over five years.

Less than a year later a serious case review found attacks in nearby Edlington, in which two young boys were tortured by two brothers, had been "preventable".

The then Education Secretary Michael Gove ruled in 2013 that an independent trust would run children's services in Doncaster..

It is set to take over all children's social work and care operations from 1 October while the council will retain responsibility for schools and education.

Councillor Jones said that while the council could not guarantee 100% protection for children, it had put systems in place to "flag up early warning signs".

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