(1) Councillor Turner referred to how over the past three years serious reductions in the Council budget continued to be made and asked did the Labour hegemony consider that the latest trip to China, which included the Mayor and other persons no longer associated with the Council, to be proper and reasonable?
Councillor Wyatt, Cabinet Member for Finance, confirmed that the trip in question was a private holiday and was not a Council funded trip relating to the affairs of the Council.
In a supplementary question Councillor Turner found this difficult to accept considering that two attendees had lost seats in the recent election and asked that this be corroborated further.
Councillor Lakin, Deputy Leader, confirmed that the trip to China was a personal holiday and paid for by all the individuals concerned.
(2) Councillor Cutts referred to Councillor Beck being good enough to inform the Council that a number of companies had had second thoughts in further investment and asked that Councillor Beck indicate which companies they were and what the size of their investment might have been?
Councillor Beck, Cabinet Member for Business Growth and Regeneration, confirmed that he had had conversations with all sorts of businesses. Some of these have been commercially sensitive conversations, so was unable to share any such information.
In a supplementary question Councillor Cutts asked if he could be reassured that the Cabinet Member would make every effort to re-approach these companies for them to reconsider investing in Rotherham once again?
Councillor Beck, Cabinet Member for Business Growth and Regeneration, gave his assurance that he would do just that and had already met with one such company to advise that Rotherham was a place in which they could invest.
(3) Councillor Parker referred to Rotherham as having a substantial number of Roma people living in our community and asked had the Council any knowledge of any Roma men married to under age children in Rotherham (as a British definition of sixteen years old)?
Councillor Hussain, Cabinet Member for Communities and Cohesion, explained that Rotherham Children and Young People’s Services would regard any ‘marriage’ as described, of a minor to an adult, as grounds to undertake enquiries under Section 47 Children Act and would intervene in line with Child Protection Procedures as outlined on the Local Safeguarding Children Board website. Regardless of their cultural background under British law anyone married to anyone under the age of sixteen would not be allowed and should be investigated and appropriate action taken.
In a supplementary question Councillor Parker asked if any enquiries had been made of the Roma community as he would not like to go through the same situation that the Council was experiencing now and asked had this Council under safeguarding rules made any enquiries at all?
Councillor Hussain, Cabinet Member for Communities and Cohesion, confirmed that work was taking place with the Roma community, but would follow this up again with the relevant people. The issues referred to were often hidden and needed to be routed out with the British values enforced in that whilst living in Britain it was a criminal offence to marry anyone under the age of sixteen.
(4) Councillor Reynolds referred to shared services and how they could save money, usually around 20% for participating organisations. It seemed that Sheffield, Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham were reluctant to participate and asked why were Labour run Council not making these savings for Council tax payers?
Councillor Wyatt, Cabinet Member for Finance, confirmed that Councillor Reynolds was correct, shared services did save money. This Council was already successfully running a number of high profile shared services for other Councils, such as Human Resources and Payroll with Doncaster, and was always looking for further such opportunities provided sharing was the right way forward to achieve this Council’s objectives and priorities and budget demands.
In a supplementary question Councillor Reynolds asked if they were such a good idea how come they were not be rolled out to both front and back office activity.
Councillor Wyatt, Cabinet Member for Finance, confirmed that there were additional shared service arrangements such as Emergency Planning between Rotherham and Sheffield and the savings made would support the respective Councils’ budgets. It was something all Councils would have to consider looking into further in the future.
(5) Councillor Cowles confirmed that at the last full Council, the then Leader was questioned about his foreign junkets. He gave out a long list of businesses and he stated he had helped with mergers and acquisitions. Could he be provided with a full list of the companies stated, soft or hard copy would do?
Councillor Lakin, Deputy Leader, confirmed that a full list would be provided of the companies stated at the last full Council and assured all Members that there would be a new culture within the Council in the future and part of this would be a moratorium on foreign trips.
In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked that as part of providing the list could information on who provided the funding and who authorised that expenditure also be provided?
Councillor Lakin, Deputy Leader, confirmed that the requested information would be provided.
(6) Councillor M. Vines referred to one of her constituent's asking why the Council was borrowing £2 million to build a school yet Magna and Hambey's could get loans from the Council. How many years were these loans being taken out for again as the constituent felt the Council was getting stitched up by the Cabinet Members.
Councillor Wyatt, Cabinet Member for Finance, explained that the Council was supporting the future development of a new Central School (Eldon Road). Financially the Council had to match Government funding to meet the costs associated with the provision of a new school site and buildings. Mostly, it was using its powers under prudential capital borrowing to do this. The related financing cost of this borrowing would have to be met from the Council’s Revenue Budget unlike the other loans referred to in the question where the borrower was meeting the related financing costs.
In a supplementary question Councillor M. Vines asked how many loans the Council still had outstanding and to what value?
Councillor Wyatt, Cabinet Member for Finance, confirmed that this information would have to be followed up and a response provided to Councillor M. Vines.
(7) Councillor Reynolds asked were those Councillors who attended the seminar in 2005 prepared to accept collective responsibility for the child sexual exploitation scandal and if so would they do the honorable thing and resign?
Councillor Lakin, Deputy Leader, explained that the Labour Party was currently making investigations into events during that the period and would take the appropriate action. As said previously he urged other parties to do the same.
In a supplementary question Councillor Reynolds asked that all Councillors be brought to book for all those who were in attendance at the seminar in 2005 as they were made aware of the scale, the volume and asked why was nothing done for nine years?
Councillor Lakin, Deputy Leader, referred to his earlier answer on this matter.
(8) Councillor Cowles referred to academics and politicians alike stating that one of the most powerful ways of promoting social cohesion was by the use of a common language. The cost of translation services was a waste of tax payers money and asked what had been the cost financial year -to-date and what was the budget?
Councillor Wyatt, Cabinet Member for Finance, confirmed that to date in this financial year, the Council had spent £59,662 on translation services. The cost of providing these services was met from Directorates supplies and services budget. It was pointed out that some translation services were required by legislation.
In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles referred to a number of older people and also some young people in his constituency who were intimidated and afraid by the foreign languages they heard when they came into the town and asked what words of solace would Councillor Wyatt like him to take to these people to reassure them that something was being done about this issue?
Councillor Wyatt, Cabinet Member for Finance, believed that anyone coming into a different country should aspire to speak the language and involve themselves into that society.
(9) Councillor Cowles asked as many of the children involved in the child sexual exploitation investigation were eleven or twelve, possibly younger, would the perpetrators of these crimes, if caught, be classed as paedophiles and would they be placed on the sex offenders register given that the perception of paedophile was greater than sex offender.
Councillor Lakin, Deputy Leader, explained that under the law, decisions about whether someone was placed on the sex offenders register and for how long were decisions for the courts and not this Council and suggested that Councillor C. Vines takes this forward to the next Police and Crime Panel.