Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Monday, 19 April 2010 12:18 UK

Troubled history of Doncaster Council

Doncaster's first elected mayor, Martin Winter
Doncaster's first elected mayor, Martin Winter, faced regular criticism

After years of criticism and controversy, the Audit Commission has recommended government intervention in "failing" Doncaster Council after finding it was incapable of making improvements.

The move follows a number of high-profile events in the council's history, including damning criticism of its social services department following the deaths of seven children in the district and the brutal attack on two boys by two young brothers in Edlington.

The Audit Commission announced in January that it was starting an investigation into the council's management and leadership.

A report published on Monday said it was a matter for Communities Secretary John Denham to decide what action to take.

But it added that he may wish to consider the "immediate suspension" of some or all of the functions currently undertaken by the council.

Political controversies in Doncaster go back more than a decade.

The town is notorious for the so-called "Donnygate" affair, which saw 20 former councillors found guilty of expenses fraud in the 1990s.

Children's services 'inadequate'

The elected mayoral system, an accountable model of democracy, was designed to drag the town out of the mud and to attract badly-needed money to improve its network of former pit villages.

The mayor represents the authority and the borough on a local, national and international platform and is personally accountable for all strategy and policy decisions made.

But Doncaster's first elected mayor, Martin Winter, faced plenty of questions during his two terms of office.

Calls for him to resign were made in 2006 and 2008, he was forced to apologise for "failing" flood victims in Toll Bar in 2007 and he was expelled from the Labour Party in 2008 after forming his own political group.

Mr Winter repeatedly refused to resign, but towards the end of 2008 serious failings in the council's children's services department emerged, which would pave the way for the end of his mayoral reign.

Court drawing of Edlington attackers
The Edlington attackers were detained indefinitely in January

In December 2008, the department was rated "inadequate" by Ofsted and a month later an inquiry was launched after serious case reviews were ordered into the deaths of seven children who had been neglected or abused.

In March 2009, after the inquiry found children's services provision to be "seriously weak", the government ordered a takeover of the department.

As a result of the findings, Mr Winter said he would not seek re-election.

In June 2009, English Democrat Peter Davies was named the town's second elected mayor.

Mr Davies said his victory marked "a new day for Doncaster" and promised "better times" for residents in the future.

But in September 2009, the council and its children's services department were again thrust into the spotlight when a serious case review was announced into the Edlington attacks.

'Letting people down'

The council, which has no overall political control, was later forced to apologise after the review found the attack was "preventable".

Like his predecessor, Mr Davies has refused to resign despite a vote of no confidence and repeated criticism of his "outrageous" policies.

The leadership of the council was put under further strain in January this year when the chief executive Paul Hart stood down for "personal reasons".

An acting chief executive, Tim Leader, was soon brought in but he resigned earlier this month, blaming his relationship with Mr Davies.

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