Agenda item

Questions to Advisory Cabinet Members and Committee Chairmen


(1)  Councillor Cowles asked had the Council received the SCRIF funding to cover the £1m put up for additional broadband cover, bearing in mind the previous indication the Council would get this money back first in December and then in April.


Councillor Read, the Leader, confirmed the Council had not received formal notification from the Combined Authority that SCRIF funding had been secured to meet the local authority match funding contributions in relation to the South Yorkshire Superfast Broadband BDUK contract, the Council’s share of which was £1.596m.


At the time that the Council agreed to enter into the BDUK contract it was anticipated that Barnsley MBC, as lead authority, would submit a full business case to the Combined Authority and obtain a decision on SCRIF funding by December, 2014.  Due to the complexity of the scheme, Barnsley was unable to achieve this timetable and a revised timetable was agreed early 2015 which envisaged that the full business case would be submitted to the Combined Authority by March, 2015 and a funding agreement secured by June, 2015. The latest position was that the full business case was submitted and approved in May, 2015 resulting in a further month’s slippage. The Funding Agreement was now expected to be in place by the end of July.


In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked about the broadband coverage, where this was in phases and it there was any copies of documentation?


Councillor Read, The Leader, indicated he would ensure a copy of any maps or documentation was provided.


Councillor C. Vines made reference to the timeframe for implementation and asked if Barnsley were underwriting the contract, what redress did the Council have?


Councillor Read, the Leader, indicated the funding for the Council to meet its share of the cost, but it was not possible to say if there were any additional costs to be incurred by the Council.


(2)  Councillor Cowles asked for a brief update on the 'Core Plan', what happened next and when.


Councillor Read, the Leader, confirmed the Local Plan Core Strategy was adopted by the Council on 10th September, 2014.  It now formed part of the statutory development plan for Rotherham. To complete the Local Plan, a Sites and Policies document was being prepared which would allocate specific development sites to deliver the Core Strategy’s growth targets.  It would also set out development management policies to guide decisions on planning applications. A final draft of the Sites ad Policies document was subject to public consultation between 13th October and 24th November, 2014.


The next stage of the process was the “Publication” of the version of the Sites and Policies document that was intended to be submitted to Government. This would entail a six week statutory consultation period for any comments on the document prior to submission. Subject to approval by the Commissioners and Council, the Publication consultation period was programmed to start late September, 2015. Exact dates would be confirmed nearer the time.


In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked if there would be any further public meetings and if the public would be allowed to ask questions?


Councillor Read, the Leader, could not offer any specific confirmation, but the public would be invited to submit their views.  The consultation process was formally set down as part of the statutory framework.


(3)  Councillor Cowles stated that in the Advertiser dated 22nd May, 2015 Engage Fighting Championships have been given a two year exclusivity deal to stage fights at Magna.  Therefore, had the consultancy study to consider the Magna Business Plan and the centre's future been carried out, why have Members not seen the results and cost for the study?


Councillor Read, the Leader, explained the original expectation was that Magna would submit its future business plan to the Council at the beginning of April.  This was actually received at the end of April, due to a key member of Magna’s team being absent as a result of major surgery.  Following the submission of the business plan a formal tendering process to appoint independent consultants was concluded on the 22nd May, 2015 with the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, who would undertake the review of the 5 year Business Plan produced by Magna.  The submitted cost for the review was £12,850.  An initial meeting had been arranged with PwC for the 15th June, 2015 to formally agree the scope of the review and to finalise the terms and conditions of the contract with them.  A formal report was expected to be received from PwC by the end of July, 2015 but this was subject to finalising the work plan and timetable.  A report to the Commissioners on the outcome of the review with recommendations was expected to follow in August, 2015.


In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles referred to the Magna Business Plan which should be considered in the context of what Rotherham needed, alongside hotels and stadiums and should not be allowed to limp from one loan to another.  Consideration needed to be given to the whole situation, how the Council viewed Magna in the context of Rotherham with understanding of the development plan as a whole and not just in isolation.


Councillor Read, the Leader, agreed with Councillor Cowles, which was why the study had been commissioned so that the wider areas were included.


In a supplementary question Councillor Reynolds questioned the cost of the study and asked why the Managing Director of Magna was not able to deliver a business plan for the Council?


Councillor Read, the Leader, explained the rationale for the study and the view taken at the time.


In a further supplementary question Councillor C. Vines asked about why the study proposed was not undertaken jointly by the Council, the Stakeholder Group and Chamber of Commerce as there was no evidence of business people being involved in funding Magna in the past.


Councillor Read, the Leader, confirmed funding had been provided previously, but the Council was the biggest creditor to Magna which had prompted the decision for this to be reviewed.


(4)  Councillor Cowles asked for confirmation that RMBC had a judgement against them on the 25th February, 2015 in a claim against the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills which was heard on the 22nd/23rd October, 2014 and also asked if the majority party aware of this action prior to it taking place?


Councillor Read, the Leader, confirmed this related to the distribution of E.U. funding and the majority party was aware of the proceedings before they were commenced.   The former Leader confirmed the decision for the Council to be a party to the proceedings, together with the other South Yorkshire authorities.


In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked if he could be told the cost of the legal action.


Councillor Read, the Leader, confirmed this would be provided in writing.


In a supplementary question Councillor Parker referred to the costs involved in this judgement and how he received the information too late to enable him to put a question into Council.   He, therefore, asked who had made the decision to take the court action forward believing they could win the case.


Councillor Read, the Leader, confirmed this would have been minuted at the time as to when the decision to take forward the legal action had been approved.


In a further supplementary question Councillor Parker expressed his concerns that this information had not been shared with Opposition Elected Members as he only found out by accident when it appeared in the Rotherham Advertiser.


Councillor Read, the Leader, acknowledged that information should have been shared with all Elected Members and that work was taking place on a briefing note for Elected Members sharing information which should be finalised in the next few weeks.


(5)  Councillor M. Vines asked, with the Council in severe austerity measures and penny pinching, why it had stopped buying a drink on Remembrance Sunday for the town’s veterans, which had been custom for many years. Instead why not sell the ET1 number plate (Mayoral car), which was only a vanity item and brought nothing to the town?


Councillor Read, the Leader, explained that with regards to the selling of the car registration ET1, any sale proceed would be a capital receipt and, therefore, could only be used to fund capital expenditure and not operational services. 


In a supplementary question Councillor M. Vines asked if the drinks at Remembrance Sunday would be reinstated, but also referred to her own personal circumstances where only her husband, Councillor C. Vines, had been invited to the Armed Forces Day when herself and their son, who was serving in the Armed Forces, was not able to participate.  There were many young people in this town who were serving in the Armed Forces.


Councillor Read, the Leader, explained that there was a civic parade which was for Elected Members, rather than their families, to participate in.  He did understand Councillor M. Vines’ sentiments.


The Mayor, to assist, explained the rationale behind her reductions in the civic budget, which included ending the use of a “free” bar used by a range of people, but gave her undertaking that she would personally pay for a drink for veterans.


The Mayor also confirmed the circumstances provided by Councillor M. Vines and Armed Forces Day would be considered in more detail.


Councillors C. Vines and M. Vines expressed their frustrations and their disappointment at the parade arrangements for Armed Forces Day, but wished to point out this was not about obtaining food or drink for free, as they were willing to pay or provide any funds to allow the veterans of this town a drink.


(6)  Councillor Reynolds asked how many people – in total – went on the month long trip to China (split between Councillors and non-Councillors) and asked could he have the assurance and empirical proof that there was zero cost for this trip to Rotherham Council taxpayers?


Councillor Read, the Leader, explained the trip to which Councillor Reynolds was referring to was a private holiday.  There had been no cost to the Rotherham public purse in arranging, organising or procuring the trip referred to.


In a supplementary question Councillor Reynolds asked for proof that this was indeed a private holiday.


Councillor McNeely was one of the Elected Members who had been on the trip and confirmed she had paid for her own trip, along with twenty other people.


Various Members expressed their concern at having to provide proof when they were taking personal holidays and that this was not felt to be appropriate.


(7)  Councillor Reynolds asked, on the topic of Pool Green Roundabout, whether the cost to RMBC taxpayers be confirmed as £1 million in total.


Councillor Sims, Advisory Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Enforcement, reported that the original bid to the Department for Transport (DfT) Pinch Point fund approved by Cabinet on 6th February, 2013 was for two schemes: A630 Old Flatts Bridge major bridge maintenance scheme and A630 Pool Green Roundabout junction improvement.


The estimated total value of the two Pinch Point schemes at the time of the bid was approximately £8M, £3M for A630 Old Flatts Bridge and approximately £5M for A630 Pool Green Roundabout. The DfT’s Pinch Point Fund would only provide a maximum contribution towards any scheme of 70%. The amount of DfT funding sought for the A630 Pool Green Roundabout scheme was therefore approximately £3.5M.


The Council had to provide a 30% match-fund contribution towards the A630 Pool Green Roundabout scheme and this included £1M of Council borrowing. The total funding breakdown for the scheme at the time the bid was submitted is set out in Table 1 below:


Table 1: Original funding profile at the time of the pinch point fund bid (February 2013)

Funding Source

Amount (£)


Department for Transport – Pinch Point fund



Council Borrowing


30% local contribution

Local Transport Plan (Integrated Transport)









Since the scheme was originally approved by the DfT the funding contributions towards the scheme have developed, most notably following the successful bid and award of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) grant of £1,166,267 towards the scheme. Through detailed design, which commenced after the DfT had awarded funding, the scope of the scheme increased to include additional U-turn facilities, which resulted in an increased total scheme cost. The current funding breakdown for the scheme was set out in Table 2 below:


Table 2: Current funding profile


Funding Source

Amount (£)


Department for Transport – Pinch Point Fund



Revenue to Capital Contribution


30% local contribution

Council Borrowing


RUFC Section 106 obligation


European Regional Development Fund (Awarded 03.10.14)


Local Transport Plan (Street Lighting)









The Council’s direct contribution towards this scheme was, therefore, currently expected to be £483,000, which was funded from a reduced Borrowing contribution of £408,000, a revenue contribution towards the scheme of £40,000 (provided in 2013/14), and a Local Transport Plan (Street Lighting Maintenance) contribution of £35,000.


In terms of the Council Borrowing of £408,000 the Council would not borrow specifically from any lender for an individual scheme like Pool Green roundabout rather all the Council's borrowing requirements were pooled and sourced from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) or the Market, e.g. Banks. The approximate financing costs on the £408k were £23k per annum.


(8) Councillor Reynolds asked what the Pinchpoint Fund was that contributed £8 million to the cost of the Pool Green Roundabout Project?


This answer was contained in the response to Question 7.


(9)  Councillor Reynolds asked who decided that the £1 million spent on Pool Green Roundabout could not have been better spent on existing decaying roads.


This answer was contained in the response to Question 7.


(10)  Councillor Reynolds asked was there any update from the Police or Police and Crime Commissioner on progress on prosecutions regarding child sexual exploitation?


Councillor Read, the Leader, confirmed that, as Members were aware, the National Crime Agency was investigating allegations of child sexual exploitation, which occurred between 1997–2013. This was a huge operation and it was hoped that in time all those guilty of these horrendous crimes in the town would be brought to justice.    


In terms of Operation Clover - the South Yorkshire Police-led investigation into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, which commenced before the appointment of the National Crime Agency - there have been 12 suspects arrested to date. Most recently, on 27th May, it was confirmed that a 32 year old man had been arrested in Rotherham on suspicion of child sexual exploitation offences between 1999 and 2003. South Yorkshire Police was currently consulting with the Crown Prosecution Service following these arrests and support was being provided to victims that have shown such bravery in providing evidence.


Clearly, Operation Clover was an ongoing investigation and the Council must not in in any way jeopardise the likelihood of further arrests, charges and prosecutions. Hence, at this time the Police’s most recent update confirmed the 12 arrests, and everything would be done to work with Police colleagues on targeting the perpetrators, securing prosecutions, and supporting the victims of child sexual exploitation.


It was important that all the Council supported the Police - not only making arrests, but securing safe convictions.  In some cases given the complexity of these investigations this could take time.


Councillor Steele also pointed out that he had met with officers to look at how  this very important work could be taken forward and a meeting had taken place with Lead Commissioner Sir Derek Myers to look at the work programme.


In a supplementary question Councillor Reynolds thanked the Leader for the update, but stressed the importance of keeping Members up-to-date on any progress so this could be passed onto constituents where possible.


Councillor Read, the Leader, confirmed he had raised this with the Police and every effort would be made to keep Elected Members updated.