Licensing powers are the latest to be handed back to the council after a period of reform following damning reports which found that the local authority and South Yorkshire Police had turned a blind eye to men of predominantly Pakistani heritage abusing 1,400 vulnerable girls over a 16-year period.
The council’s licensing powers cover driving and operations licences for hackney carriage and private hire taxis, as well as alcohol licences.
Professor Alexis Jay’s report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, published in 2014, found that some taxi drivers had played a ‘prominent role’ in the offending.
A follow up inquiry, by Louise Casey, said there was a ‘well-publicised link between taxis and child sexual exploitation in Rotherham that has cast a long shadow over the vast majority of law-abiding drivers’.
In a ministerial statement yesterday, Local Government Minister, Marcus Jones, said: “This marks significant progress, as licensing was one of the council’s services implicated by the Casey report as contributing to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.
“I am now satisfied that the council could exercise the licensing function in compliance with its best value duty and I am consulting on revising directions accordingly.
“The most recent reports by commissioners appointed to oversee services in Rotherham had found that licensing services were now ready to return to council control, Mr Jones said.
He added: “The collective evidence demonstrates that the key objectives of the intervention, in relation to licensing, have been delivered.
“It is my assessment that the weaknesses in licensing identified in the Casey report have been addressed and the service is now functioning effectively.
“Officers and members have recognised the need for and implemented fundamental cultural change, and advisory board members, in particular the chair, are more capable and confident in their role.
“Commissioners will continue to have oversight of the service, Mr Jones added. Education, housing and planning functions were returned to the council in February.
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