Venue: Council Chamber - Rotherham Town Hall, Moorgate Street, Rotherham, South Yorkshire S60 2TH. View directions
Contact: Katherine Harclerode, Governance Advisor The webcast can be viewed online: http://www.rotherham.public-i.tv
To consider and approve the minutes of the previous meeting held on 25 October 2022 as a true and correct record of the proceedings.
1. That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 25 October 2022 be approved as a true and correct record of the proceedings.
Declarations of Interest
To receive declarations of interest from Members in respect of items listed on the agenda.
In respect of agenda item 6, Cllr Jones declared a personal interest as a member of one of the Friends of Cemetery groups
In respect of agenda item 9, Cllr Tinsley declared a personal interest as a volunteer.
Questions from members of the public and the press
To receive questions relating to items of business on the agenda from members of the public or press who are present at the meeting.
The Chair confirmed that questions from members of the public had been submitted.
1. Ms. Shazia Yousaf asked the following question: After all of Dignity’s failures and dishonesty to their customers, why has RMBC not kept on top of their progresses. Appears RMBC lacks the resources or will power to keep Dignity under close scrutiny, which in turn leads to distrust from the public. How can RMBC show to the public that Dignity will be and is being held to account?
The response from the Cabinet Member noted that, as shown in the annual report, the Council had so far received £232,935 that the Council have charged Dignity for areas of the contract that had not met the contractual requirement. Responsibility for the management of the contract was transferred from R&E to Legal Services in November of 2021. There are performance Management meetings monthly of Bereavement officers with Dignity, and quarterly meetings of the internal group of officers. There three Council officers ensuring there is robust contract management.
Supplementary: Can the minutes of the meetings be shared with the public, or can the public get involved in the meetings?
The response from the Cabinet Member was that this is a commercial contract, so under the commercial rules for local government, they are not public meetings in that sense. Much of the information that the Council does hold is included in the annual report, which is brought to public meetings like this one. That can be challenged by Members of the Public.
2. Ms. Nida Khan asked the following question: Rotherham Borough Council has fined Dignity for its failures and not-fit-for-purpose service. How has Rotherham Borough Council been held accountable for its failures, and what action has been taken against those responsible?
The response from the Cabinet Member affirmed that since the contract had been managed by Legal Services, the Service had maintained openness and transparency. The Council had numerous arrangements in place to ensure that it is accountable, including scrutiny meetings such as these where questions can be asked. Robust contract performance management measures were in place to show that going forward there was zero tolerance for failure.
Supplementary: Have you had scrutiny meetings before, or is this a new approach to resolve this problem?
The response from the Cabinet Member noted that the Bereavement Services annual reports had been submitted for scrutiny since 2016. Every year, Elected Members and the public have had a chance to challenge Dignity.
3. Ms. Nida Khan asked the following question: Why is Rotherham Borough Council not allowing Dignity to make independent decisions and keep its promises, as lines keep getting blurred as to who is in charge of what.
The response from the Cabinet Member noted that since taking over responsibility for the management of the contract, the Service has been working to clarify that governance of contract management was the Council’s role, and operations was the responsibility of Dignity. Therefore, the Council was allowing Dignity to make decisions and should not ... view the full minutes text for item 40.
Exclusion of the Press and Public
To consider whether the press and public should be excluded from the meeting during consideration of any part of the agenda.
The Chair confirmed that there was no reason to exclude members of the public or press from observing any items on the agenda.
To consider an annual report in respect of performance by the Council’s Bereavement Services provider and a five-year plan of maintenance.
Consideration was given to an annual report in respect of Bereavement Services. This report was presented by the Cabinet Member for Customer Services and Finance and by the Head of Legal Services. Also presenting were the Business Leader and Operational Director who were in attendance as representatives of the contractor, Dignity Funerals, Ltd. The Cabinet Member noted recent penalties to the contractor associated with breaches of the contract. Some areas of performance had been higher than the target. Religious awareness training had also been delivered, and faith leaders had been enlisted as active participants in discussions of service provision going forward.
The Operational Director acknowledged that Dignity had not fully delivered on the contract. A substantial investment programme which had invested well over a million pounds was described. The activities had included works such as road surfacing to improve safety and accessibility of cemetery sites. It was felt that these efforts had changed the quality of service delivery vastly. These changes should have been done many years ago to improve facilities and access to sites at Maltby, Greasbrough Lane, and East Herringthorpe. The Operational Director acknowledged years of quality not being up to standard and noted the need for more burial space. This was being addressed through the planning process. The Business Leader who runs the day-to-day operations noted several areas of service improvements, throughout the crematoriums. The Service provider had given consideration to re-evaluating prices for burial fees. Late burial times had been delivered, working alongside Glendale to ensure religious requirements for a late burial throughout the week can be achieved up to 6.30pm with no additional costs. Improvements had also been made to lighting and tarmac paths to allow burials to take place safely during the winter months.
The Service provider had also undertaken consultation with the community and with “Friends of” groups on the running of service functions. Comments were welcomed, and feedback was thoughtfully and seriously considered. The Service provider had undertaken events with the community, recognising multiple faiths in the community as well. A natural burial ground at Rawmarsh had also been established. The Business Leader welcomed a further opportunity to speak in depth about this work on another occasion. A section in Greasbrough Lane was being replanted with birch trees, Glendale was preparing a new burial ground area for planting with meadow plants. Graves were planned which would be dug by hand, and red robin shrubs were being planted. The addition of a Friends Group Room at East Herringthorpe had also been established for use by all cemetery site users. Electricity was being connected to the room, after which an appointment could be booked to have the room available for general activities. A performance management framework was in place with Glendale, involving cemetery supervisor walks to inspect and create a report that is monitored with Glendale in regular meetings using a performance framework to improve performance. Tarmac paths had been installed towards the end of Maltby Cemetery, with further work being finished ... view the full minutes text for item 42.
To consider an update in respect of self-management of allotments by the Rotherham Allotment Alliance.
Consideration was given to an annual report and presentation in respect of progress in self-management of the Council’s allotments by the Rotherham Allotments Alliance (RAA). The report was presented by the Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, the Green Spaces Manager and representatives of the Rotherham Allotments Alliance. The Cabinet Member noted all the work that had been done throughout the year by the RAA and thanked the representatives for their hard work to ensure the success of the model which had been adopted. The model allowed allotment holders with close knowledge of their allotments to take control of their own allotment environments. A key element in 2021, and even more this year, had been involving local groups and reinvesting in the community. The RAA year ran from January to December, and recent progress had been made in improving web presence, undertaking and completing projects, and preparing the way for the the upcoming head lease agreement.
Performance Indicators had been requested from the RAA as part of the Service Level Agreement that runs alongside the self-management model. It was noted that Lowfield was the only site that was not fully tenanted. The forward plan for 2023 included preparing this site ready for letting. Getting rid of asbestos had been a significant challenge, which had been addressed using the moneys the authority had put aside. It was also noted that the process of preparing the lease to be signed had been protracted. The Administrator of the RAA worked with local Elected Members where possible to coordinate efforts, including the thirteen site societies that collaborate with the RAA.
The RAA used portable, battery-operated CCTV cameras to alleviate instances of vandalism. The RAA work to ensure allotment holders know their responsibilities, and if allotment holders breached the law, the RAA reported this. Improvement works to a number of sites were described, including extensive waste removal. Part of what the RAA was trying to do was general education and encouragement of allotment holders of how to make the best use of sites for growing fruit and vegetables for families, and not for piling plastic rubbish and wood. Photographs were presented depicting overgrown conditions that had been rectified through the efforts of the RAA. Community payback services had saved resources, and a further approach that had been successful was taking on smaller plots which some holders find more manageable. The RAA had been reaching out to community groups.
In discussion, the Chair noted the nearly full sites and new plots being developed. The community payback scheme had also been a boon to the RAA community that had become accessible under the self-management model. It was felt that this was an example of strong partnership working.
Members requested further information about how the RAA worked with schools. The response from RAA representatives noted that they work with schools. A nursery had taken a plot on the site. Limitations around the powers of the RAA to lease a plot to schools were discussed. It was noted that the ... view the full minutes text for item 43.
To consider an update on delivery of the Town Centre Masterplan for regeneration.
Consideration was given to a presentation in respect of progress in delivery of the Town Centre Masterplan, which included several project areas for regeneration and development interventions in the public realm in Rotherham Town Centre. This update followed on from a spotlight review undertaken in November 2021 which examined external sources for funding these projects. Delivery of development opportunities were described. Secured external funding was noted as part of the presentation.
The presentation described the projects that would be part of the Leisure and Culture Quarter, including a cinema and hotel, six restaurants, and a public square. These plans worked around the riverside and the scheme of flood defence works already completed. The plans for connecting Forge Island to Riverside Gardens were described and the progress in respect of the Forge Island and Riverside Gardens plans were described. Indicative visualisations of the designs of these interventions were also provided. In respect of the interventions associated with Corporation Street, these would be described further in a January Cabinet report and would involve disposal of some of the Council’s land in that site to enable the development to happen. At the moment the Council sought acquisition by agreement with owner rather than a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO). The Service reported preliminary discussions had been positive. A planning application was in progress to address the site which had been an eyesore. It was noted that connections in this area would be pedestrian-friendly, to help foster an atmosphere in which people would want to spend time. Progress in delivery of the Riverside Residential Project was also described.
In respect of the Markets and Library Scheme, it was noted that this would include a new community hub, improvements to the public realm, and Town Centre connections. A contractor had just been appointed to take the project forward, and it was noted that the contractor had experience of working in markets. A challenge was anticipated around managing the construction at the same site with traders already present. It was observed that much would be happening in the Town Centre from now through 2025. In terms of challenges around timescales, it was noted that The Snail Yard had not progressed at the speed desired. Challenges with contractors and resource limitations were articulated as well as specifics of the site and interim arrangements to address what had been a vacant area and a building which did not have a future in the Town Centre. Bridge Gate had been completed and College Street works and additional car parking spaces were noted. This work was connecting key developments with high quality public realm interventions including better lighting and improved environment. Through the Future High Street Fund, a project at Grimm and Co. had been undertaken, with extra funding through the Mayoral Combined Authority (gainshare) had enabled the project to proceed without disruptions.
In discussion, Members expressed interest in further highlighting the chapel on a bridge. The response from officers noted this had been raised previously as a historic site of ... view the full minutes text for item 44.
To consider a report and schedule outlining the status of defibrillators within the Council’s guardianship.
Consideration was given to a report and schedule of local defibrillators. Over the past few years, there had been an improvement in the number of defibrillators located throughout the borough. Some of these were sourced directly by Asset Management, whilst others were sourced through ward and parish Councillors. The presentation described how the defibrillator equipment is housed, with each defibrillator in a metal cabinet and displaying a contact number for emergency services. A few types of defibrillators were located throughout the borough. Each defibrillator had a nominated guardian. If the defibrillator were to be used, the guardian would be notified directly. These defibrillators, including those in other buildings such as neighbourhood and community buildings, used to be inspected by the Ambulance Service; this changed last year. Particularly in neighbourhood sites, there had been a lack of information on the guardians for defibrillators in those sites. In recent months the Service had managed to identify the guardians, ensuring that the defibrillators were still at the sites in working order and with fully charged battery. The Service go out every week and check all the sites as part of the normal inspections. It was noted that defibrillators can cost up to £1500 each. If a defibrillator went missing, there could be a lead time for replacement. The Service was on the register and were notified if the defibrillators are used. The next day, the Service would ensure the defibrillator was back up and running. Some external information had circulated which had highlighted sites that were not Council sites. The Service provided assurances that records would be kept up to date. The Service provided further assurances that the systems and register in place could be add to the Council’s mapping system. The Service ensured that they are supplied with a list of guardians for other sites.
In discussion, the Chair noted the maintenance responsibilities associated with a defibrillator throughout its life cycle, including testing and replacing of renewables such as pads and batteries. In respect of obtaining information about the guardians throughout the borough, assurances were requested that the Service was confident that the list is complete regarding library and theatre sites. The response from officers noted the current status of library and theatre defibrillators.
Members noted that defibrillators registered with the British Heart Foundation could be referenced on public websites such as https://www.defibfinder.uk. This website, for example, indicated whether each defibrillator is active or inactive. Assurances were requested around resiliency of the guardianship of defibrillators belonging to the Council, if only one staff member is nominated as a guardian. The response from the Service confirmed that one person is nominated, however, if this team member were not in the office the day that a defibrillator is used, the notification email would also go to Asset Management and would be picked up by half a dozen members of staff.
Members referenced specific defibrillators and associated time limitations. Further clarification was requested around which defibrillators are owned by Rotherham MBC. The response from the ... view the full minutes text for item 45.
To consider an updated outline schedule of scrutiny work.
Consideration was given to an updated work programme including an outline schedule of scrutiny work for the remainder of the 2022-23 municipal year.
1. That the report and proposed schedule of work be noted.
2. That authority be delegated to the Governance Advisor in consultation with the Chair and Vice-chair to make changes to the schedule of work as appropriate between meetings, reporting any changes back to the next meeting for endorsement.
To consider any item which the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency.
The Chair advised that there were no urgent items of business requiring a decision at the meeting.
Date and time of the next meeting
The next meeting of the Improving Places Select Commission will take place on 07 February 2023, commencing at 1.30 pm in Rotherham Town Hall.
1. That the next meeting of the Improving Places Select Commission will take place on 7 February 2023 commencing at 1.30pm.