Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Public


(1)          Mr. D. Smith asked why had the Council not got an Empty Homes Officer.


Councillor Read, Leader, explained that the Voids Team, within Contract and Service Development, had overall responsibility for managing the performance of vacant Council properties.  For the last three years the number of Council void properties in Rotherham had placed performance within the top quartile for all social landlords on the Housemark national benchmarking system.


In respect of privately owned empty properties, the role of an ‘Empty Homes Officer’ was accommodated within the responsibilities of the Council’s Private Sector Housing Officer who, as part of his role, co-ordinated the activity of the Council in tackling empty private homes. This activity was predominantly focused on long-term (over six months) empty properties. The Council for a long time had initiatives in place to bring long term empty properties back into use and there was a Private Sector Empty Property action plan produced that identified what the Council intended to do to return properties to use as soon as possible.


In a supplementary question Mr. D. Smith referred to the Dinnington Ward and how they had the fourth highest number of empty homes in Rotherham, which was three times the Borough average of 9.3% against 3.2%.


He described how Dinnington was suffering from empty homes blight and the failings of the Housing Department in dealing with the issue.  He believed Dinnington had been let down by the Council and wished to see the occupancy rate increased and housing brought back into use in areas such as Dinnington.


He referred to there being 196 empty homes in Dinnington and asked how many EDM homes in Dinnington had been issued.


The Leader confirmed he would respond to this question in writing.


(2)  Mr. B. Cutts asked whether the practice and procedures over the five days’ notice given to produce the answer for the public and Councillors’ questions could be described.  With the restriction of a fifty word limit to this question could the supplementary question and answer please be minuted.


Councillor Watson, Deputy Leader, referred to the recent cross-party review group that looked at the questions presented to the Council.  It was decided unanimously that the deadline for submitting questions would move from the Monday to the previous Friday to enable the proper investigation of the issue and the preparation of a response to avoid answers then having to be provided in writing.


The procedure had now been changed to include any supplementary question and answer being recorded in the minutes.


In a supplementary question Mr. B. Cutts provided three examples of past activity which he wished to share.  The first related to his involvement as a Governor, his seeking of financial information and the difficulty he experienced with obtaining information from Rotherham.  He described how he had obtained this information from another Council in Hampshire.


His second related to a question to former Councillor Hussain and an unsatisfactory answer he had received.  He also referred to the resignation of Councillor Hussain and questioned whether the two matters were related.


His third related to a question he had asked at a previous Council meeting about the employment of Councillors in commerce or industry to which he claimed he had not had a reply.  He had asked the same question of a Council in Worcester and had received a prompt reply.   Why could another Council provide the information and this Council Chamber could not?


Councillor Watson, Deputy Leader, pointed out that this information should be contained within the Register of Interests which was publically available for each Elected Member.  A response to Mr. Cutts would be provided in writing.