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Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Public

 

To receive questions from members of the public who wish to ask a general question.

Minutes:

Questions from members of the public:-

 

(1)       A member of the public referred to a question last year when he asked whether the Council were prepared to look at CIL’s money from the Lidget Lane site on the reversing of Bramley traffic system.  It was reported the Cabinet Member would look into this and ask the officers for a report.  The member of the public had recently looked at the information on CIL which he had received as a  Parish Councillor and there was no mention of it.  He asked, therefore, if he could have a copy of the report submitted to the Cabinet Member on this issue.

 

          The Leader confirmed he would ensure a copy of the relevant documentation was provided.

 

          In a supplementary comment the member of the public referred to the CIL report being out of date as it referred to Rosemary Park at Wickersley, which was designated as a development site in the Local Development Plan.  A similar issue had also been reported at the last Council Meeting by the Chair of the Parish Council for Dinnington and suggested the documentation be updated.

 

(2)       A member of the public expressed his concern about how allowances for Commissioners were approved.  This was a question he had asked previously and was informed that Commissioner Myers approved those of the other Commissioners and Commissioner Ney approved his.  In his opinion the checks and balances were not sufficient. 

 

He asked, therefore, it this system had been approved by the Chief Finance Officer as the costs associated with the Commissioners was approaching £1m.  Accordingly, the member of the public disagreed with the role of Commissioners and the grotesque amounts they were paid.  On this basis the member of the public was going to start checking duties that the Commissioners did. 

 

Clarification was sought on whether the Commissioners chose their own duties and referred to Commissioner Myers attending the Parliamentary count in 2015 and the benefit to his attendance given that elections were governed by the Electoral Commission.

 

He asked if this was a duty that was claimed for would the Commissioner be paying the money back.  In order for the member of the public to carry out his checks he asked if the Commissioner would  provide diary logs, timesheets and Terms of Reference for the appointment and most importantly give a truthful answer to this.

 

Sir Derek Myers confirmed he worked to different ethical standards and his honesty and integrity had never been brought into question.

 

On the question of the Chief Finance Officer the Directions required the Council to make available to Commissioners facilities at their discretion and where best value could be demonstrated for powers to then be restored.  It was not for the Council to set any limits, but for the Council to be satisfied that any claim the Commissioners made was justified based on the documentary evidence to receive recompense on hours worked and subsistence costs etc. travel costs etc.

 

Diary logs were kept and monthly sheets completed as to the number of hours worked.  Calculations were based on number of hours, subdivided by ten and rounded down. Most Commissioners worked every day for Rotherham whether reviewing emails, making calls, writing or reading reports.

 

Diary sheets had been provided under Freedom of Information requests and this avenue was open to the member of the public.  The member of the public was also entitled to view any Commissioner claims.

 

Commissioner Myers confirmed he had not made any claim for the count.  He was in Rotherham at the time, played no formal role and was invited by the Returning Officer to view proceedings in pursuit of local democracy. 

 

Commissioner Myers referred to the detailed knowledge of the Commissioner duties by the member of the public, who he believed was incorrect with his comments around the local and parliamentary elections.

 

(3)       A member of the public referred to a proposed 5% Council Tax rise and the impact on those unemployed who owned their own house like himself who still had to pay a Council Tax.  He explained how he was in receipt of £73.10 a week the same as anyone on Jobseekers Allowance and how, if he lived in rented accommodation, he would have no additional tax to pay.  He asked, therefore, if it was possible the Council was operating a tax system which was unfair to unemployed home owners forcing them to go to food banks as he had done last year.

 

The Leader’s understanding of the Council Tax system was that a few years ago anyone on benefits was exempt from pay Council Tax altogether.  The Government then cut the support to those of working age and had a national intermediate year where it limited the amount of Council Tax contribution of working age unemployed to 8.5%.  The Council continued to maintain this scheme and the liability to pay was based in income and cash assets.

 

The detail of the scheme was not likely to be discriminative to people who owned their properties as opposed to people who rented, but was reliant upon savings and simply required a contributory payment of 8.5% of their council tax bill.

 

In a supplementary question the member of the public referred to some people going to food banks because of the Council Tax policy due to financial decisions. As the Job Seekers Allowance had not gone up by inflation claimants were under immense financial pressure.  The member of the public acknowledged the decisions that had to be made around Council Tax and Business Rates.  He was also mindful that in Rotherham the Job Centre did not pass on information to the Council and the Council asked that people dealt with them direct.

 

The Leader confirmed he would pick up about information sharing with the Job Centre. 

 

However, he appreciated the concerns of the member of the public and offered reassurance that the Council was trying to maintain the level of support against opposition.  It was the policy decision by Government to remove the support, a decision which was opposed, given the impact on people on lower incomes.  He would make reference to this in his presentation to Council.