Louise Casey “decks” Rotherham MBC – is this really the way to do it?

Did Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council need sorting out? Almost certainly. Was Louise Casey the right person to do it? Also almost certainly not. The result might be right, but the way it has been achieved is just as much an example of maladministration as what’s happened at Rotherham, even if the consequences are less devastating. And if this “process” is allowed to stand English Local Government as a whole will come to regret it.

Most of the Press and Media have concentrated on the lurid account of what went on at Rotherham, most of which is scandalous. The allegations of bullying, cover-up and denial have been exhaustively covered. What everyone seems to have ignored is the “due process” aspect of this “Inspection” of Rotherham – it’s not just the verdict that matters, but how it was arrived at.

So what did happen? To wrote the report “On the 10th September 2014, the Secretary of State appointed Louise Casey CB under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999 to carry out an inspection of the compliance of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council with the requirements of Part 1 of that Act, in relation to the Council’s exercise of its functions on governance, children and young people, and taxi and private hire licensing.”

For the full Report see here.

The result of this inspection has been a decision that central government effectively take over Rotherham for more than a year and imposes a group on unelected and unaccountable “Commissioners” until new elections in 2016. Now this is clearly an extreme measure and one that should worry anyone concerned with local democracy. Maybe it is justified, but it has to be seen to be so.

So we come to the nub of the problem – the appointment of Louise Casey as an “independent” Inspector to investigate Rotherham MBC.

Ms Casey’s credentials would seem questionable at best. She’s never worked in Local Government or children’s service. She is a civil servant and the civil service has to serve the government of the day. And then there’s her record.

Here she is commenting on a government campaign against binge drinking: “I don’t know who bloody made that up; it’s nonsense … Doing things sober is no way to get things done.” In the same speech she threatened to “deck” fellow civil servants if they ever mentioned “evidence based policy” to her again. Given that both the role of ‘evidence’ and bullying turned out to be major elements of the Rotherham investigation, this was to say the least unfortunate.

Her latest role, before the Rotherham “inspection”, was running the so-called “Troubled Families” policy, about which she published a highly dubious report. Transparency declaration – I was one of the many who pointed out just how spurious this report was here. Again, this demonstrated a rather less than rigorous approach to what constituted ‘evidence’ as far as Ms Casey is concerned.

I think it was in an episode of “Yes Minister” that Sir Humphrey opined you should never set up an inquiry unless you first knew what the result would be.

If you can read this letter from Casey to CLG Secretary Eric Pickles and tell me this wasn’t a just such an example, I would be very surprised.

Rotherham probably was a “rotten Borough” and needed sorting, but was really the best way to do it? The result might be right, but the way it was achieved wasn’t.

And in the future, when a case isn’t quite so apparently clear-cut, will English local government come to regret the precedent set here of a Secretary of State using a civil servant, in this case with an ‘interesting’ record, to justify “decking” a local authority he or she doesn’t like?

12 thoughts on “Louise Casey “decks” Rotherham MBC – is this really the way to do it?

  1. “Unhelpful”? Let’s bury inconnvenient facts is, in part, what got Rotherham into the mess it did. You’re not really advocating that are you?

    As for ‘doing a great job’, personally I’d like a little more due process and independence from central government political masters before an elected Council is overturned. The result would almost certainly be the same, but the ends does not justify flawed means.

  2. at last someone looking past the ‘righteous outrage ‘ and seeing what is really going on. The Casey review was a foregone conclusion . It did not consider the Governance of Rotherham . It conflated lots of issues and simply took comments made in interviews as facts. It claimed to not be re examing CSE issues but concentrated on them and did not look at the achievements of the Council which were relegated to a list supplied by the former Leader and Chief Executive as an after thought . It does a dis-service to the people of Rotherham to suggest that the Council was a complete failure for 16 years as this is simply not the case . Understanding why it failed to tackle CSE is critical. This report means others may be complacent and fail to see that this could and is happening elsewhere . It seriously undermines local democracy and the “evidence” for this is not adequate.

    1. Thanks Carole. What I didn’t say in the original post is what worries me most is this will now get politicised. We already have Farage and UKIP trying to capitalise on it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31163189. I suspect it is only a question of time before “the scandal of Labour run Rotherham” creeps into Conservative speeches and propaganda. I think that is what was behind the cavalier way in which this “inspection” was conducted – a civil servant with a reputation as a ‘gun for hire’ rather than a genuinely independent Inspector, which is what Parliament clearly intended when it passed the legislation which enabled this back in 1999.

  3. Excellent article and thought-provoking for everyone who supports the democratic process in local government.

  4. Well done Colin in raising this interesting issue. There is nothing wrong with civil servants acting as Inspectors – many are employed in that role. But they are expected to follow proper process. If they don’t then their conclusions can be judicially reviewed. Maybe someone will challenge the Casey report – ‘though the Council seem not to be inclined to do so. And maybe there would be no point in a challenge if her conclusions were correct, even if she had cut corners in reaching them?

  5. Do not,repeat do not dismiss Louise Casey’s report nor the result of her investigations.
    I am a resident of Rotherham and probably better qualified to comment on why Rotherham MBC failed and the culture of denial that pervades Rotherham Town Hall. I am heartily sick of apologists finding daft excuses why Casey was ‘wrong’ or her methodology suspect. If any of you on this blog had lived and worked in Rotherham you would know the culture of bullying and denial was widespread. We don’t care how Louise Casey came to her conclusions, we’re more than happy the Labour controlled council has been exposed for the failure it is.
    The appointment of five commissioners under the leadership of Sir Derek Myers is not anti democratic, it is simply that there is no other alternative. Do you honestly think we would trust a local politician to run RMBC? After watching and listening to Kimber and Lakin pontificating in the council chamber there is no chance of another apparatchik taking control in Rotherham.
    Try living here before you comment instead of joining the rest of the keyboard warriors and being judgemental.

  6. People need to look beyond what the media show them. Im from rotherham . My daughter, one of the thousands rendered less than human. The baby that they snatched days old. On christmas eve ( because she didnt deserve a christmas ever again aswell as a baby). Happily the order was revoked on appeal. Baby and mum are soon to be reunited, no thanx to the solicitors from rotherham. There to tick the boxes while they traffick humans on mass, for a price, any color, any creed. I thought my worries would be over now. For a good few yrs ive looked at the decisions these clever expensive bodies tell us are right. Their expensive problem solving generating more vulnerable for them to pick off. I look at my green and pleasant land on the bbc weather map and a see sludge, The news laughable, when you see what the traitors are upto. So send in the governers because we now have less rights than prisoners. Its not about law its about order. The cartell have cut out the link they dont need, we do . Theyr not even hiding what theyr doing anymore. Camoron telling his peers hes going to protect all of us and gesturing clearly he meant them not us. The chaos is organised and its gone on for many decades. The enemy isnt bombing us doesnt mean their not at war with us. Childhood isnt a birth right its a commodity in england 2015

  7. Louise Caseys report was entitled “Report of Inspection of Rotherham Borough Council”. That should give the reader a clue to the fact that it wasn’t limited to looking into how the council dealt with CSE. So when they say “Louise Caseys report into CSE” they are either being a bit thick (in which case I question their academic abilities) or they are trying to discredit the report for political reasons (which is disgraceful). Or perhaps, like so many “academics” they just love the sound of their own voice?

    That RMBC were failing to deal with CSE effectively is nothing we didn’t already know from the Jay report (which WAS mainly concerned with how RMBC dealt with CSE), but what we didn’t know until Casey was just how many areas RMBC were failing in, how much they were in denial despite publicly saying they accepted Jays findings in full, how deeply a distorted view of political correctness affected decision making in the council.

  8. I can see my second comment has been deleted whilst my first comment is still ‘awaiting moderation’
    Strange world you people inhabit.

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