Agenda and minutes

Improving Places Select Commission - Tuesday 11 July 2023 1.30 p.m.

Venue: Council Chamber - Rotherham Town Hall, Moorgate Street, Rotherham, South Yorkshire S60 2TH. View directions

Contact: Katherine Harclerode  The webcast can be viewed online:

No. Item


Minutes of the previous meeting held on 6 June 2023 pdf icon PDF 156 KB


To consider and approve the minutes of the previous meeting held on 6 June 2023 as a true and correct record of the proceedings.


The Chair placed on record his thanks to the Arts and Heritage volunteers and staff within the Culture, Sport and Tourism team for sharing their time and expertise at the site visit to the restored historic Keppel’s Column visitor attraction on the morning of the meeting.




That the minutes of the previous meeting held on 6 June 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.


Cllr McNeely declared a personal interest as a tenant of the Council.


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 advised that there were no members of the public or representatives of media organisations present at the meeting and there were no questions in respect of matters on the agenda.


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 was no reason to exclude members of the press or public from observing discussion of any items on the agenda.


Appointment of Representative to the Health Welfare and Safety Panel

To receive nominations and appoint a representative to the Health, Welfare and Safety Panel for 2023/24.




1.    Councillor Rose McNeely was appointed to serve on the Health, Welfare, and Safety Panel for the 2023-2024 municipal year as a representative of Health Select Commission.


Draft Damp, Mould and Condensation Policy pdf icon PDF 316 KB

To consider a report outlining the current processes in place to deal with reports of damp, mould and condensation and a Draft Damp, Mould and Condensation Policy.

Additional documents:


Consideration was given to a report outlining a draft policy presented by the Assistant Director of Housing and the Interim Head of Contracts, Investment and Compliance in respect of the Council’s response to damp, mould and condensation in council-owned properties.


The report provided an update on the current processes in place to deal with reports of damp, mould and condensation and a summary of the Draft Damp, Mould and Condensation Policy. The Council adopts a zero-tolerance, pro-active approach to reports of damp, mould and condensation in council-owned properties and provides support to private rented tenants to address hazards within their homes.


The Draft Damp, Mould and Condensation Policy has been compiled in response to the Housing Ombudsman reports in relation to damp and mould, and the proposals for Awaab’s Law which will require landlords to fix reported health hazards within specified timeframes.


In discussion, Members sought an opportunity to view the easy read leaflet which had been made available online.


Members were pleased to see a proactive approach taken, and also expressed concerns around challenges to addressing hazards in the Private Rented Sector (PRS), where the Council has limited powers. The response from the head of Community Safety referenced the government consultation and deferral of incoming legislation that will clarify additional powers for local authorities in respect of the PRS. There were two separate areas within PRS, one of which involves Selective Licensing, which are areas where the Council can have a proactive approach. In these areas the Service is able to inspect the properties. It was noted that the way the Service captured category 1 and category 2 hazards, did not distinguish between mould and damp and other types of hazards.


Some of the wider challenges were that the renter had to come to the Council, knowing how to recognise that there was a problem, being able to overcome barriers. Further, renters had to know their rights, as many renters are hesitant to report because of concerns about rising rent or eviction. The Service promoted engagement through residents’ associations and newsletters. Still, these approaches did not offer a quick solution. Training front line services was also important.  Early Help workers can spot challenges and know who to contact. Work in schools also promoted early intervention education and spreading the message as proactively as possible. Members acknowledged the importance of frontline staff having awareness and noted that working with colleagues in services who do home visits within the community.


Members noted that many former council houses are now in private hands, so there needed to be information made available to privately rented and owned sectors as well. The leaflet was given to repair people with frequently asked questions and preventative advice around keeping areas well ventilated.



Members also sought further reassurances that the Service is keeping up with the 238% increase in referrals with the technical staff having increased only by 50%. The response from officers noted that technical officers have a target seven working days to take action. With  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14.


Cost of living and rent arrears in Council Housing pdf icon PDF 296 KB

To consider a briefing in respect of the impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on Housing Services and the response.

Additional documents:


Consideration was given to a briefing report presented by the Assistant Director of Housing and the Business and Commercial Programme Manager in respect of the impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on Housing Services and the response. In the context of high inflation, the Council kept under review whether the current housing service offer meets the evolving needs and priorities so that resources can be targeted effectively. This briefing provides an overview of the current position and changes to the Council’s approach. The briefing identified three key stages in how the Housing Service supports tenants, who are some of the most vulnerable residents in Rotherham who will be affected to varying degrees by the cost-of-living crisis.


Three key stages on the tenant’s journey were described. Affordability assessments and income and expenditure checks were described as part of the Housing Allocation and pre-tenancy support phase.  Some checks are light touch whilst others are more in depth depending on the needs of the prospective tenant. The aim of the Service is to offer appointments for checks in greater numbers and to offer some appointments to the homelessness service.


Income collection for housing rents had been top quartile in national benchmarking for several years following the service transformation which took place in 2017. The Service had to balance the fact that it is often the housing provider of last resort against the need to maintain a healthy Housing Revenue Account to fund vital services to tenants and investment in housing growth.


Income collection is undertaken in accordance with the Ministry of Justice Pre-action Protocol. The Council had a twelve-stage process for the escalation of rent accounts in arrears. Over the past five years, there had been a significant reduction in the number of tenancies failing due to rent arrears which was reflected in the relatively small number of evictions.


Arrears recovery commences when an account is three weeks net rent or more in debt (and minimum arrears balance of £30). The recovery processes continue on a weekly basis until a Notice Seeking Possession would be served at week five unless the arrears balance is less than £355 (proportionality of debt vs costs). This is if the tenant does not engage with the Council to put a payment plan in place. Where a tenant is at risk of losing their tenancy a referral is made to the Tenancy Support team who provide holistic support to tenants.


The handling of credit balances, tenancy support provision, and the approach to tenancy health checks were also described. Referrals into the team were rising and it was expected that the complexity and the rate of referrals would continue to rise. Given the increase in rents and service charges, alongside the significant increase in the cost of living, it was thought likely that income collection rates will deteriorate, and current tenant arrears balances will increase during 2023-24. That said, similar deterioration in performance had been expected in 2022-23, which to date had not materialised. In view of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.


Play Procurement and Installation pdf icon PDF 256 KB

To receive a briefing in respect of the procurement and installation process for recreational playground equipment.


Consideration was given to a presentation by the Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, the Green Spaces Manager and the Assistant Director for Culture, Sport and Tourism. The presentation summarised the responsibilities of the Green Spaces Play Maintenance Team, which provides play inspection and minor maintenance through its small play team, for equipment belonging to Green Spaces, Housing Services and some Parish Councils. The Play Manager is also able to advise services regarding options available to them when equipment requires repairing or replacing. This team is responsible for 34 Green Spaces play areas, 26 Housing sites, and 30 Parish Council sites for which a Service Level Agreement is in place to carry out monthly inspections.


Maintenance Costs were also explained as part of the presentation. Councils pay a fixed cost per play area for inspections, and they pay for repairs by agreement or undertake the repairs themselves. The Housing Service pays a fixed cost per play area for inspections, but covers the revenue cost for repairs within Housing Service budgets.


Regarding Play inspections, all Council play area receive:

• Routine visual inspections at least monthly.

• Routine maintenance inspections quarterly.

• Annual inspection by an external inspector.


All ‘faults’ are risk assessed and priority for maintenance is given to the highest risk faults. The highest scored risks carried by the Council, have seen a steady reduction over the last 10 years and continue to reduce. If a fault cannot be rectified within budget or within a reasonable timescale, often temporary or permanent removal of the faulty equipment is the only available option to ensure children’s safety.


A full-time Play & Horticulture Manager, a full-time Play Maintenance Operative, and a Play Inspector (0.8 FTE) made up the Play Team. Green Spaces Play Team undertakes minor works such as replacing parts, as well as ordering small scale new and replacement works up to £10,000. Works over £10,000 tend to be more complex in nature with regard to procurement and management (owing to Construction, Design and Management (CDM) regulations).


The Role of the Landscape Design Team was also summarised. The Landscape Design Team has the capacity and experience to undertake medium and large-scale play improvement projects. All such improvement projects have been undertaken by Landscape Design as a standard method of delivery for many years.


Decision-making around budget allocation was summarised and followed a risk management approach, with highest risks prioritised to ensure safety. Ward members were made aware, where possible, before equipment is removed, and involved through Neighbourhood Co-ordinators if new capital investment in play equipment is being made.


In discussion, further information was requested in respect of how the large scale work was programmed. The response from the Cabinet Member and officers noted that this was done for larger projects through the Landscape Design team. The Green Spaces team works tended to be on the whole more reactive, small scale and remedial. There were two funding streams that had limited time available to get the projects in place, the service believed there was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.


Work programme pdf icon PDF 355 KB

To consider and endorse a draft outline programme of work for the 2023/24 municipal year.

Additional documents:


Consideration was given to a draft outline programme of scrutiny work for the 2023-2024 municipal year. The Chair provided an update on the progress of the Nature Recovery Review which on 21 July 2023 will conduct site visits from 10.30 am to Silverwood and Centenary Riverside, followed by a hybrid meeting to establish preliminary findings of the review.



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.


Urgent Business


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 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 19 September 2023 commencing at 1.30pm in Rotherham Town Hall.




The next meeting of the Improving Places Select Commission will take place on 19 September 2023 commencing at 1.30pm in Rotherham Town Hall.