THE chauffeur-driven car used by Rotherham Council’s former leader is being axed to help pay for a major investment in protecting children.
The cancelling of the contract to provide a car for the use of the council’s leader will save around £30,000 as the authority spends more than £800,000 on youth and social workers and support for child abuse victims.
Rotherham is awaiting the appointment of Government commissioners to run the authority in the wake of a damning report by inspector Louise Casey earlier this month which described it as “not fit for purpose” and was particularly critical over its failure to protect children from abuse.
In addition to saving money, the axing of the car used by former leader Roger Stone is seen within the council as an important symbol of the change already underway even before the commissioners arrive.
Mr Stone resigned as council leader in August following a report from Professor Alexis Jay which found 1,400 children had been abused because of council and police failings.
He later stepped down as a councillor.
Rotherham Council’s budget for this year includes £390,000 for additional social workers, £234,000 for outreach youth workers focused on children at risk from abuse and £200,000 for help for victims.
Coun Chris Read, who was elected leader of the council’s Labour group this week, said: “This is the next stage in bringing change to Rotherham council.
“We are making good on our commitment to bolster and improve children’s services after the Jay and Casey Reports, and to provide stable funding for the long term support that victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation need.
“We have heard directly the concerns of residents about littering and the state of the roads, so these areas will also see additional investment.
“I’m particularly pleased that because of the decisions we are proposing, there should be no net job losses at the council as a result of these proposals.”
In common with councils across Yorkshire, Rotherham’s budget includes significant cuts as the amount it receives from central government is squeezed.
The authority is set to cut its budget overall by £23 million with savings including the scrapping of the ‘Imagination Library’ scheme which provides books to under-fives, a move saving £400,000 over the next two years.
It is also proposing to raise its council tax by 1.95 per cent, a move which would take the charge on the bill for a band D property to £1,277.73 before police, fire and parish charges are included.
Uncertainty continues to surround when the Government commissioners will be appointed and begin work.
The authority has pencilled in a meeting to discuss the budget on Friday as it is legally obliged to have it in place before the start of the financial year.
As leader of the political group holding a majority on the authority, Coun Read would ordinarily expect to be elected council leader.
As things stand, it is expected he will be formally chosen as council leader next month although his authority is likely to be significantly restricted under the commissioner-led regime imposed by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.