Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Public


(1)  A member of the public asked for an explanation on the point of the consultation on the sites and policies document, when this did not comply with the current planning policy, in light of recent announcements about not bringing the Green Belt into the adopted Core Strategy, and why this was not part of Rotherham’s Local Plan?


The Strategic Director of Environment and Development Services would provide a more detailed answer in writing to the question above, but confirmed the Core Strategy did comply with current guidance.  The announcements made by the Secretary of State related largely to planning applications rather than applications to the Local Plan.


The allocation of sites was to achieve the demand for housing, which was not as simple as there was insufficient land and could mean that Rotherham could not meet its housing supply.


(2)  A member of the public congratulated the Council on its presentation of reports which formed part of the agenda pack to the Cabinet, which was an improvement on recent events which the Council had faced and asked the Cabinet, in addition to the £120,000 allocated to child sexual exploitation victims, whether consideration could be given to diverting further victim support by way of:-


·                Top slicing 10% of the £1.2 million paid annually to Councillors.

·                Diverting or top slicing all the performance related bonuses provided to senior management or Council officials who had collective responsibility for failure.

·                Diverting any underspends from the Community Leadership Funds, which each Councillor was allocated to spend on community activities, rather than returning this to the General Fund.


In addition, the Cabinet were asked if they would sign up individually and collectively to the Jessica Petition, who was campaigning for justice and wanting to raise awareness and funds for victims of child sexual exploitation.


The Deputy Leader spoke about the £120,000 that had been initially allocated to fund counselling services for victims.  The South Yorkshire Community Foundation currently had approximately £70,000 available for organisations to bid into for counselling.  This work would remain ongoing and every effort would be made to how best support victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation.


As part of the budget process and consultation the public could feed in ideas for consideration with priority being given to children’s services and victim support.


The Director of Finance confirmed the need for longer term support for victims and plans going forward could include financial provision in the Medium Term Financial Strategy.  It was also noted that the Council had no provision for performance related bonuses for senior officers.


The Leader took on board the matters raised by the member of the public and confirmed that consideration would be given to the suggestion about the use of underspends of the Community Leadership Fund, as would Members’ Allowances.  In terms of the Jessica Petition, Members would be encouraged to sign up to this.


The Director of Public Health outlined the availability of counselling support via Youth Start (for young people up to the age of 25), to which an extra £53,000 had been made available, referrals through the C.C.G. and R.D.A.S.H. and through General Practitioners.


The two voluntary sector organisations that had received funding were also able to offer specialist counselling support.  Information should be passed onto anyone who was not in receipt of support that required it.


(3)  A member of the public referred to a recent meeting of the Chamber of Commerce where Sir Kevin Barron, M.P. had tweeted “That the way to deal with child sexual exploitation was to tell the truth” and asked could the Leader confirm that the Cabinet were finally going to do this?


The Leader suggested that the question be put to Sir Kevin Barron himself.


In a supplementary question the member of the public referred to the Cabinet’s view that it was telling the truth, but asked if the Leader had attended the recent Rother Valley South Area Assembly, which considered matters relating to child sexual exploitation, to provide protection for the Chair, Councillor Jane Havenhand, who said nothing about her own position when she had been an Adviser to former Councillor Shaun Wright for five years. 


The Leader confirmed he had already been in attendance at three Area Assembly meetings convened to discuss matters relating to child sexual exploitation.


(4)  A member of the public referred to the previous Cabinet meeting held on 15th October, 2014 where he raised the question of bullying and named a current Borough Councillor.  At a meeting last Monday the same Councillor threatened the member of the public with imprisonment and asked if it was time this Councillor stood down?


The Leader reiterated the same invitation for the member of the public to make an appointment to discuss the matters to which he was referring.  Any concerns or complaints relating to Elected Members should be referred in the first instance to the Council’s Monitoring Officer.


In a supplementary question the member of the public confirmed he would be taking up the offer to discuss matters further with the Leader, but was currently gathering evidence.  However, it was pointed out that over forty complaints had been made about Borough and Parish Councillors of Anston Parish Council, the majority of which had been submitted to the Monitoring Officer and some of which related to Members of the Standards Committee.  Should the Borough Councillor, who was conspiring with other Councillors who sat on the Standards Committee, not be investigated with regards to misconduct whilst in public office?


The Leader suggested that all matters be referred to the Monitoring Officer to take this forward and that all current complaints received be considered.