(1) Councillor Gilding asked could he be given details of the claims by Property Search Companies and what was the cost of the proposed settlement of the first set of claims by Rosemount Legal Services?
The Deputy Leader explained that the claims were in respect of charges made to Property Search Companies, by the Local Authority under the relevant legislation between 2005 and 2010. This national legislation allowed for these charges to be made, but the legislation was revoked in 2010 as being incompatible with EU Directive. As such backdated claims were made for the above period. The cost of the proposed settlement was £211,398.12.
The LGA had also commissioned some work to have a forensic account under the existing rules and advice was provided to indicate that payment should be made to the first tranche of claims and covered the period 2005 to 2010.
(2) Councillor Wallis explained that as a Member for Rotherham East she had noted that one of the Rawmarsh Councillors raised concerns about litter in Eastwood. She was very surprised that he did not join residents and the three Councillors for Eastwood at the litter pick on 8th April and asked did the Leader share her surprise?
The Leader confirmed he was not surprised that the Ward Councillors for Eastwood were not joined by the Ward Councillor for Rawmarsh for the litter pick on the 8th April, 2014.
(3) Councillor Gilding asked the Cabinet Member what his reaction was to the recent television programme shown on Channel 5 relating to the Roma community in Rotherham and did he think it would affect race relations in the town?
The Cabinet Member for Communities and Cohesion explained that there had also been significant media interest in Roma communities following national coverage of ‘tensions’ in the Paige Hall area of Sheffield last year. This had led to an increased focus on the Roma community within Rotherham and the Council was aware of a number of media requests over recent months from both national and local media (print, radio and broadcast) to meet with and follow Roma families from various angles.
The Council was aware of the recent TV programme “Gypsies On Benefits And Proud” which was aired on the 11th April, 2014, which was partly filmed in the Rotherham area and an Eastwood family was one of several to be featured in this documentary. The family from Rotherham had been exploited and paid by the television company to appear on television. This had resulted in some tensions locally as the family had been threatened by their own community.
The documentary unfortunately only presented one controversial side of the story of immigration. Immigration into this area had happened for many years and those that have come to settle in the area have made a positive contribution to the economic and social life of this Borough.
Immigration had led to growth in the economy and some research undertaken by the University of Lancaster had shown that people arriving into Britain were most likely to make a positive contribution to public finances with 34% being paid more in taxes and from 2001-2011 45% of people were less likely to receive tax credits or tax benefits.
(4) Councillor Gilding asked what was the estimated Roma population in Rotherham?
The Cabinet Member for Communities and Cohesion confirmed that there were 3,700 as at April, 2012 which was the most up-to-date figure held and to avoid any confusion this figure related to the Gypsy Roma community and not the Irish Gypsy community.
(5) Councillor Gilding asked was it a good idea by the last Labour Government to allow uncontrolled immigration from the extended European Union?
The Cabinet Member for Communities and Cohesion referred to Article 45 of the Treaty of Rome 1957 which gave every citizen of the EEC (later EU) the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. This was confirmed and clarified in subsequent treaties including the Maastrict Treaty 1992 and Directive 2004/38/EC which defined the right of all EU citizens and their families to move and reside freely within the EU.
The Treaty of Accession 2003 resulted in the enlargement of the EU, taking in ten new states including Poland, Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. From 1st May, 2004, citizens of the accession states were free to move to and reside freely in the UK and vice versa. Any EU citizen, regardless of ethnicity, was free to move to and reside in the UK just as UK citizens were free to move anywhere else in the EU. The numbers of EU migrants were not controlled or monitored and people have moved to places all over the UK, including Rotherham.
According to research by Salford University, about 200,000 Roma people from the EU accession states have moved to the UK in search of better opportunities and less discrimination. Rotherham had not set out to attract Roma or any other EU citizens, but many have chosen to exercise their legal right to come here.
Comparisons were made to the number of British people who were living abroad in countries such as Spain with 400,000 living abroad, but still claim a state pension here in the U.K.
(6) Councillor Gilding asked the Cabinet Member if he would ensure that Central Government was told in the strongest terms that this Council was opposed to building on the Green Belt when brownfield sites were available?
The Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Development Services referred to the Cabinet report which confirmed the Council’s view.