Venue: Council Chamber - Rotherham Town Hall, Moorgate Street, Rotherham, South Yorkshire S60 2TH. View directions
Contact: Katherine Harclerode The webcast can be viewed online: http://www.rotherham.public-i.tv
To consider and approve the minutes of the previous meeting held on 24 October 2023 as a true and correct record of the proceedings.
Resolved:- That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 24th October, 2023 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.
There were no declarations of interest to report.
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.
There were a number of questions from members of the public. The Cabinet Member with responsibility was unable to attend the meeting so responses to the questions below would be provided in writing.
The Chair authorised the reading of the following questions from Mr. Azam so they could be recorded in readiness for a written response.
Question 1 – With regards to Section 2.2 of the public report could the Cabinet Member confirm the total amount Dignity had been fined for the financial year 2022/23? This appeared to be missing from the report and it would be in the public’s interests if this could be included to see what Dignity have been fined for the last financial year.
Question 2 - In Section 2.3 of the report in the financial year 2021-22 Dignity were fined a total of £350k with allocation of £150k for various works. Could the Cabinet Member provide a breakdown of how the £150k had been spent and what additional funding was being sought? Reading the report it appeared that a meeting had been requested about additional funding, but it was difficult to decipher how this funding had been spent.
Question 3 – Within the Dignity Report at Section 4.2 could the Cabinet Member provide a breakdown of how the £250k additional capital investment had been spent in the Muslim Section? Whilst there had been some additional investment to improve footpaths and resolve the water issues and to the land graves themselves, it would be interesting to see how funding had been spent. The way the report was written also appeared to suggest the Muslim Community had been given special treatment with additional spend. This did not seem fair so needed to be recorded accordingly.
Question 4 – With regards to the Annual Report : SIP 4, the thirty-five year plan stated that Dignity have not produced this report yet the RAG status was green in the five year plan which was submitted to the Council on 1st October, 2023. Could the Cabinet Member please state why this had not been made available? The Leader had also written to the group represented and had confirmed this would be presented to Scrutiny to ensure it was reviewed.
Question 5 – With regards to the Annual Report : SIP 9 this refers to talking with and liaising with faith leaders, but it does not go into detail as to what was being asked of those faith leaders or why the RAG status was amber.
With regards to the annual report and projects for 2024/25 within the Muslim section this replicates from a previous report with seventy-three vaults being installed. If the report is correct with the potential projects during 2024/25 on landscaping there needed to be detail on how this was to be done.
For clarification it appears operational matters were the responsibility of Dignity, but the Council was responsible for landscaping matters. The report does indicate the Council had approved the approach to be taken, so why ... 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 advised that there were no items of business on the agenda that would require the exclusion of the press or public from the meeting.
To consider an annual report in respect of the delivery of the Bereavement Services contract.
Consideration was given to the Annual Bereavement Services Report presented by Bal Nahal, Head of Legal, Registration and Bereavement Services, which provided an update on the Council’s Bereavement Services management of the contract between the Council and Dignity Funerals Limited.
The report was last presented to Scrutiny in December 2022 and today’s annual report provided a further update and progress in relation to the management of the Dignity contract, capital projects, disused cemetery and chapels council, retained cemetery boundaries, digital autopsy contract and death management.
The Commission were asked to note the thirty-five-year contractual agreement with Dignity Funerals which the Council entered into in 2008. The partnership saw Dignity take on the responsibility for capital works and maintenance of the East Herringthorpe Cemetery and Crematorium, along with maintenance of the eight other municipal cemeteries located through the borough.
Dignity Funerals Ltd. were also required to provide annual assurances to make sure they were undertaking their duties in accordance with the contract and meeting the key performance targets and service improvements. This was monitored through regular meetings with the Council.
The Council also had a contract with digital autopsies in conjunction with Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council.
The key issues from the last Improving Places meeting and the recommendations were highlighted. From the recommendations an all member session was convened on 23rd March 2023 and it was also suggested that Bereavement Services and Dignity worked together to better demonstrate how equalities duties were adhered to.
An update was provided in terms of progress made in relation to Bereavement Services and it was noted that meetings took place with Dignity on a regular basis in relation to performance indicators.
It was also noted that in March 2023, Cabinet granted approval for Capital Works to several Council retained assets in the cemeteries. Further approval was still required for additional capital allocation due to changes in costs of materials and labour since the estimations were made. An outline was provided on the current progress on capital works and estimated dates of completion.
The Council also retained responsibility for some cemetery chapels, some of which were in a state of disrepair requiring future capital investment. This was outlined within the report.
Furthermore, in relation to cemetery boundaries, further works have been undertaken - again fully detailed within the report.
The digital autopsy contract, which initially began as a pilot, had been running successfully. This was a much better way of performing digital autopsies without causing too much distress for families through having an invasive autopsy. This contract was being managed and performance was on target.
In terms of Death Management, the Council’s response to the COVID emergency was well documented and various work streams were arranged as a result; one of which was death management. In addition, mortuary capacity had also improved. Death management figures were now back on track and close to what they were before the COVID pandemic.
With regards to religious awareness training the majority of relevant staff within the Council, Dignity ... view the full minutes text for item 42.
To consider an update report in respect of Road Safety and Cumwell Lane.
Simon Moss Assistant Director for Planning, Regeneration and Transport, supported by Richard Jackson, Head of Highways, Andrew Lee, Service Manager for Traffic and Road Safety, and Matthew Reynolds, Head of Transportation Infrastructure, provided further information on the post-scheme appraisal of the road safety intervention measures approved for implementation along Kingsforth Lane and Cumwell Lane during the 2022/23 fiscal year, following concerns raised about the safety of road users.
Background information was provided on the road improvements following the two fatal collisions in the winter of 2021/22. In May 2022 there was a petition presented requesting road safety improvements and then in the Summer of 2022 there were several improvement measures introduced on Kingsforth Lane and Cumwell Lane.
In December 2022 there was a further update to the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board which recommended an update to this meeting post scheme improvements.
Following an annual evaluation of the improvements some speed surveys have been undertaken (details within the report) along with summaries of three collisions recorded. Based on the latest information available there was no indication that an Average Speed Camera system would have directly prevented the three collisions reported since 1st September 2022 given the recorded contributory factors.
Discussion ensued on the speed survey results and the apparent lack of confidence in the data and whether the improvements to date had had the desired effect for reducing speed. Further information was available to indicate that there were updated methods for conducting speed surveys which were easier, simpler and much more cost effective and whether these would be used in in the future.
Representatives from Transportation were confident in the data analysis and the reporting of speed. The reasons referred to were aimed at explaining why there were some increases in speeds in the early mornings or late at night and whether these were directly as a result of the new measures in place possibly giving confidence for some drivers. The roadworks in the area meant that measurements were not take from one site, but the service were always willing to improve the methods for collecting and evaluating data.
The after survey was undertaken in June, 2023 so it was suggested this be done again in February, 2024 to give a like-for-like comparison in terms of tube survey analysis industry standard and was probably right for this kind of location which were highlighted for specific risk.
Within the service’s suite of analytical tools it had a piece of software which used transponder data from cars giving more real-time information. This was on a link basis over a longer and longer stretch. This was why it was important that a like-for-like comparison was undertaken.
In terms of why speeds may have increased the £150,000 interventions (which were a substantial part of the budget) which were put in place were about making the road conditions suitable for drivers. The improvements mean drives may be less likely to take risks and whilst there had been no huge reduction in speed, the accident record ... view the full minutes text for item 43.
To consider a presentation in respect of a Social Frontiers project undertaken by research partners at the University of Sheffield and Rotherham United Community Trust.
The Chair welcomed representatives from Sheffield University and Rotherham United Community Trust, Dr. Aneta Piekut, Prof. Gwilym Pryce, Dr. Zanib Rasool and Dr. Henry Staples, to give a presentation on an international piece of work centred around the social frontiers in Rotherham West and their impacts on the community.
The presentation and discussion provided information:-
· About the Project.
· Social Frontiers in Rotherham West (2011 Census).
· Case Study Data in Rotherham West.
· Physical Barriers overlapping Social frontiers.
· Social Frontiers in Rotherham West.
· Participated Created Map.
· Impacts on Safety, Mobility and Socialising.
· Scarcity of social and community infrastructure.
· The few places to meet and socialise.
· Tensions related to the scarcity of social and community infrastructure.
· Unequal distribution of resources.
· Lack of infrastructure for all communities.
· The importance and limits of community encouragers/leaders.
· Important of community encouragers/leaders.
· Support is not systematic.
· A vibrant and initiative taking community.
· Community organisations and initiatives in Rotherham West.
· Rotherham Plan 2025 – Building Stronger Communities.
· Blurring the Edges – Video.
· Organisations involved in the project.
The Commission welcomed the presentation and information shared and recommended that the Blurring the Edges be shared and viewed more widely.
Discussion/comments were made and a question and answer session ensued and the following issues were raised and discussed:-
· Recognition of the physical barriers and cultural divisions.
· Impact and influence on decision making.
· Historic background to the work, communities involved and previous funding arrangements.
· Mismatch for funding communities.
· Reintegration of communities and links.
· Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
· Use of Ward budgets.
· Valuable research and ongoing work to do.
· Referral of the project to the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.
· Infrastructure funding.
· Referral to Neighbourhoods.
· Alternative ways of bringing communities together.
The Chair thanked all those involved with the presentation and the awareness raised and recommended the video be shared more widely for viewing.
Resolved:- (1) That the presentation be received and the contents noted.
(2) That the project details be referred to the Mayoral Combined Authority, Cabinet Member for Social inclusion and officers in Neighbourhoods.
To consider and endorse an updated outline schedule of scrutiny work.
Consideration was given to the Work Programme circulated with the agenda.
The Chair advised there were only two meetings left this municipal year and work was already ongoing with two outstanding reviews.
Reference was made to the recent Council Meeting where it was agreed that Improving Places would be recommended to look at undertaking a review into school crossing patrols and safety outside school gates. This would be an in depth piece of work that may not be scheduled within this municipal year.
The Work Programme as set out in the agenda papers detailed items scheduled for the February and March meetings which would be include in due course.
Resolved:- (1) That the Work Programme be received and the contents noted.
(2) That consideration be given to scheduling the review into school crossing patrols and safety outside school gates at the earliest opportunity.
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 the Commission’s consideration.
Date and time of the next meeting
The next meeting of the Improving Places Select Commission will take place on 6 February 2024, commencing at 1.30 pm in Rotherham Town Hall.
Resolved:- That the next meeting of the Improving Places Select Commission will take place on Tuesday, 6th February, 2024 commencing at 1.30 p.m.