Town That Couldn't Run Itself; Ministers Step in over War between Mayor and Council

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Byline: Chris Brooke

A TOWN where public services are in meltdown because of a war between the elected mayor and left-wing Labour councillors is to be taken over by the Government.

Doncaster Council was branded 'failing and dysfunctional' by the official spending watchdog, which said it was not serving its people adequately and had no prospect of improving without urgent intervention.

The damning inquiry by the Audit Commission revealed that children were not being protected, the needs of the most vulnerable were not being met, schools were not good enough, crime was too high, public spaces were filthy and residents too unhealthy and unskilled to find new jobs.

Labour councillors opposed to the elected mayoral system were blamed for the effective collapse of the South Yorkshire council which serves 291,000 people and has an annual budget of around [pounds sterling]600million. Councillors were described as 'venomous, vicious and vindictive' and responsible for widespread 'bullying and harassment' of officers.

They have stopped Peter Davies, the outspoken English Democrat elected as mayor last year on an anti-political correctness ticket, from doing his job in running the council by blocking key decisions and rendering him 'largely powerless', said the report, adding that councillors put their 'hatred of the mayor' above their 'love of the people'.

Mr Davies was in turn criticised for 'making things worse' by antagonising his Labour opponents. The Audit Commission ordered a snap inspection of the council following public concern over a violent attack by two young brothers on two other children in Edlington, near Doncaster, and the deaths of seven children known to the town's children's services within three years. Last year a Government hit squad was sent to run the failing children's services department, but the Audit Commission team concluded that Doncaster Council failed to meet minimum standards in most areas of its operation. …