To put questions, if any, to Cabinet Members and Chairmen (or their representatives) under Standing Order No. 7(1) and 7(3).
(1) Councillor M. Elliott reported Rotherham currently did not recycle plastic bottles and asked had recycling of plastic bottles been considered, costed and dismissed in the past?
Councillor Hoddinott clarified the Council did recycle plastic bottles, but not at the kerbside. Residents had the option to take bottles to their local household recycling centre, but any plastics placed in the normal black bin were separated out at the Manvers recycling site. All Members had been invited to this site and could observe first-hand how waste was dealt with what was separated out.
The recycling of plastic bottles was first introduced as a trial in 2003 at the kerbside recycling, however, in 2004 this was withdrawn and replaced with the current contract. The contracts were now coming to an end and approval had recently been sought for a twelve month extension to review recycling options. There was demand from public to recycle bottles and officers were looking at the options to including this in the recycling provision moving forward.
Councillor M. Elliott confirmed he had visited the recycling centre at Manvers and found it very informative. He referred to 35.8 million plastic bottles being disposed of each day of which only 19.8 million were recycled which meant 16 million were not. He asked if there was any enthusiasm with other councils to recycle plastic bottles.
Councillor Hoddinott confirmed there all options were currently being considered. The Council needed to do all it could to encourage people to recycle to assist in reducing the waste going to landfill and plastic bottles were a key part of this.
(2) Councillor Sansome’s question - how could the Council justify charging 8.7p per KW/h to Council tenants, through the District Heating Scheme on the Fitzwilliam Estate in Swinton, when the average market price was 4.18p per KW/h – had been answered as part of the debate at Minute No. 113.
(3) Councillor Jepson after contacting Streetpride last year regarding the frequency of cleaning certain streets in Anston and Woodsetts was informed that in some instances this had not taken place for twenty-one months and it would be another two months before this would be carried out and asked the Cabinet Member if she thought this was acceptable?
Councillor Hoddinott considered twenty-one months to be unacceptable and had contacted the Service to be informed the roads were swept every twelve months and that Anston and Woodsetts area was swept in April/May, 2016. If Councillor Jepson did not believe this to be the case then the Cabinet Member reiterated that she was more than happy to meet with Councillor Jepson and the Service to see how this could be addressed.
In a supplementary question Councillor Jepson presumed the Council only had the one street cleaning vehicle serving the whole of the Borough. Under the Local Plan more houses would be built which meant more roads and asked whether consideration had been given to the investment of more machinery. He appreciated there were often problems with cars parked, but suggested the Service urgently look into investment of its street cleaning machinery.
Councillor Hoddinott confirmed the Council had two sweepers serving the Borough, but investment into new machinery had been raised by staff. The Assistant Director was looking into further options going forward. Again Councillor Hoddinott invited Councillor Jepson to provide examples of where street cleansing was not working to see where this could be addressed.
(4) Councillor Cusworth reported on the 20th April last year, dog owners queued outside Swinton Library to have their pets microchipped free of charge by the Dogs Trust. A grand total of 180 dogs were chipped that day. She asked how successful had the partnership with the Dogs Trust been across the Borough.
Councillor Hoddinott explained the Dog’s Trust/RMBC partnership event at Swinton was one of five events which took place throughout 2016. The team saw 378 dogs, of which 349 dogs were micro-chipped.
In a supplementary question Councillor Cusworth asked if the Council had any plans to work with the Dogs Trust in the future.
Councillor Hoddinott confirmed discussions ongoing with the Dogs Trust this year and four more events were being planned. Dates would be circulated to Ward Members in due course.
(5) Councillor Cowles referred to a recent forward plan meeting where the Section 151 Officer reported that she had been trying to do shared services deals with other authorities as they offered value for money for tax payers and asked why did the Council think other Local Authorities were not prepared to join us to provide a lower cost service.
Councillor Alam explained the Council was open to working in collaboration with other local authorities and other public sector organisations and already had shared arrangements for some services already in Doncaster, Sheffield and North Yorkshire.
The Section 151 Officer had sought to progress shared service discussions with the other three south Yorkshire authorities for Procurement, but none were interested in pursuing this.
In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles referred to shared services where costs of between 10% and 20% would be reduced after implementation. He asked if the Cabinet Member could use his influence with other leads to get authorities to join Rotherham to get a more effective low cost service for taxpayers.
Councillor Alam explained the Council would always try to work with partners to secure best value and would continue where it made sense, but he could not force other partners to join us.
(6) Councillor Jepson asked given that the Labour Party’s official policy was a total ban on fracking, would the Leader confirm that fracking in the Rotherham Borough was banned.
Councillor Read, the Leader, explained that Labour Party policy was not law, but explained that should Rotherham receive an application for fracking it would have to consider this in light of national policy.
In a supplementary question Councillor Jepson was unsure if the Leader was aware that in the southern part of the Borough some areas were already licensed for site exploration and many Town and Parish Councils were being bombarded by one particular company. There would be applications in the pipeline over the next few years, but asked if and when there was a change in Government if applications had been granted in Rotherham how this would be squared if there was then a ban on fracking.
Councillor Read, the Leader, explained that this would depend on the legislation, but it was anticipated the burden would fall on those companies to end those practices. Any application submitted now would have to be judged on its merits.
(7) Councillor Cowles referred to recent local fly tipping. The Council was prepared to spend £200k in Eastwood so there should be £200k for Sitwell. At the last meeting the Cabinet Member dismissed £200k from a budget of £3m as pin money and presumed £200k for Sitwell would not be a problem.
Councillor Hoddinott reported all estimates were within a £3 million budget with a time for action approach to tackle issues around fly tipping and enforcement. Councillor Cowles raised the issue of fly tipping in Eastwood, which were responded to, but if he had any similar issues in his own Ward the Cabinet Member was more than happy to sit down with him and look how to take the time for action approach in Sitwell.
In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles referred to how the Eastwood Project was going, not well since the original plan was a joke, with no defined tasks, no defined cost, no communication strategy and no success criteria. He asked if the Cabinet Member was attending the Rotherham South Area Assembly to provide an update and to tell the residents resources were being withdrawn from Eastwood and advise on the stability of which focused on ticket wardens from Doncaster. He had received notification of another load of waste dumped in Eastwood which continued. Fly tipping continued, back yards were full of waste, the street cleaner was present daily, the night time singers were still singing and anti-social behaviour was carrying on. He asked if this was that what success looked like and at what cost.
Councillor Hoddinott explained about the commitment to go back to the Area Assembly in February, 2017 where an update would be provided on the Eastwood Plan and would provide the detail. This was a long term project with a plan to progress. Councillor Cowles provided a long list of issues in Eastwood from information he received from residents, which would be dealt with. However, the Cabinet Member was still waiting for an email regarding the fly tipping in Whiston, which would be dealt with. More information was provided by Councillor Cowles on complaints in Eastwood, but nothing from his own Ward.
(8) Councillor Jepson asked could the Cabinet Member supply him with the cost of creating and maintaining the Bluebell Way as well as any figures that related to the number of people using it and was the existing signage and map information to be improved so that it could be more easily followed than at the moment.
Councillor Hoddinott confirmed the Bluebell Way Trail was first created in 2011 and to date £11,254.80 had been spent on signage, way markers, gates and motorcycle barriers. Unfortunately, usage was not logged at this location.
The Cabinet Member was pleased to report the Public Rights of Way Team were proposing to promote the route this spring as part of their doorstep walks and rides series and they had indicated they were more than happy to meet with Councillor Jepson to see what improvements could be made.
Councillor Jepson appreciated the opportunity to be involved, but suggested this 2011 project receive the appropriate publicity as it had not been properly promoted in the past. He asked if some consideration could be given to the route, and any possible redirection, as it was not always attractive to some users as it included rural and urban pathways through some housing estates.
(9) Councillor Atkin asked what help could the Council give to the residents and business people of Wath Upon Dearne and surrounding areas to oppose the closure of their branch of the Yorkshire Bank and had since learnt that the HSBC was also closing so both banks would be lost.
Councillor Lelliott expressed her concern about the wider implications on jobs and the local economy with the removal of the two banks on the high street. Contact had been made with John Healy, M.P., and officers, including the Area Assembly Team to see what action could be taken in terms of writing letters and lobbying reminding the banks of their commitment to the high street. A meeting would be arranged with officers and the Cabinet Member was more than happy to provide support alongside Ward colleagues.
Councillor Atkin confirmed he was in receipt of an email about the setting up of a meeting. He had visited Wath town centre and had spoken to residents about the banks’ closures and the setting up a petition. He was pleased to hear that the local M.P. had been contacted.
(10) Councillor Cowles explained he had attended two ‘Stop HS2’ meetings at Bramley. Members of the Labour Group had also attended, but it seemed they were not against HS2, they simply wanted it moved into other people’s back yard and asked can the Leader confirm precisely what your party’s position was in relation to HS2.
Councillor Read, Leader, confirmed this matter had been discussed at length and a formal position by this Council had been adopted against the current proposal for the M18 route, but were in favour of one that provided the maximum benefit to the people of South Yorkshire.
Councillor Cowles pointed out that if the Leader had attended the debate at Radio Sheffield before Christmas he would have realised that the alternative route via Meadowhall was a dead duck. The senior guy from HS2 reported that in reality the only route the Government was considering was the eastern route via Hellaby and Mexborough.
If the engineering report was read Meadowhall was clearly no longer a serious alternative. The local Members of Parliament had stated that only Meadowhall offered anything for Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster. However, only through Freedom of Information questions had it revealed that Sheffield spent £6,000 providing breakfast for HS2 staff and a further £190,000 of public money trying to persuade HS2 to move the station to the city centre. So much for Sheffield City Region and Labour friends. He asked when was the Leader going to stand up for Rotherham and stop trying to fool people that he supported them when he clearly did not.
Councillor Read, the Leader, confirmed he would continue to advocate the position about bringing jobs to the region and boost the economy and connectivity of Rotherham where he could. He would continue to pursue bringing the best national piece of investment into the area. If Councillor Cowles wanted to walk away from this then that was his choice.