To put questions, if any, to Cabinet Members and Chairmen (or their representatives) under Standing Order No. 7(1) and 7(3).
(1) Councillor Cusworth asked what support is the Council providing to Brookfield Primary Academy in Swinton, since Ofsted gave the school an overall rating of “inadequate” following their recent inspection in September, 2016.
Councillor Watson confirmed that since the Ofsted inspection, one of the Principal Advisors from the Local Authority had met with the Executive Head Teacher and co-constructed a package of support which was available to the Academy. As part of this, extra support had been given to Brookfield Academy to strengthen its safeguarding processes and systems. In addition, teaching staff have attended the Council’s SATS preparation and moderation sessions and the Executive Head Teacher attended the recent Primary Head Teachers’ meeting, which focused on elements of best practice.
In a supplementary question Councillor Cusworth understood the Council had previously offered support to the school, but this was not accepted. However, with a new Head Teacher in place could the Council give assurances that they and Wakefield Academy Trust were now working together.
Councillor Watson confirmed in part. Prior to the inspection the school decided it did not want to take advantage of the Rotherham’s School Improvement Services offer. Since the inspection, however, the school had been willing to work with the Council and the Head Teacher and the Senior School Improvement Adviser had co-produced a package. However, at this moment in time financial approval from Wakefield Academy Trust was still awaited.
(2) Councillor Carter asked what was South Yorkshire Labour’s united policy on devolution to the Sheffield City Region.
The Leader explained how the Combined Authority was made up of the Leaders of the four South Yorkshire authorites who wished to continue moving forward with the Sheffield devolution deal. The Combined Authority regretted the impact and judicial review from Derbyshire, but accepted the consequence of this whilst getting into the right place legally. This now meant that the election for Mayor would be moved back to 2018.
Leaders would continue to pursue what options they believed for their own local authorities and this was the view the Leader had taken on behalf of this authority.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked why, when the South Yorkshire Members of Parliament had taken a different stance looking towards a Yorkshire-wide version, could the Leaders not agree this between them.
The Leader pointed agreement had been reached on the position of the Combined Authority. However, he pointed out to Members that each Leader had a responsibility to their own areas and to pursue a devolution deal in the best way. He was personally unconvinced about a Yorkshire model of devolution as it would prove difficult to get this. Some people may think it may be possible to do this and some people think it may be possible to achieve this and keep the Combined Authority for the Sheffield City Region with one Mayor for the whole of the Yorkshire area. All options would be examined as they came forward, but it was the Leader’s view that the Sheffield City Region was the best option for Rotherham and only option being pursued at this time.
(3) Councillor Napper asked in the interest of democracy could the Leader tell the ratepayers of Rotherham why they were not given a referendum or vote on whether we should become a part of the Sheffield Region or not.
The Leader explained Rotherham became part of the Sheffield City Region when it was established in 2004. It was not a requirement of the legislation then for local authorities to decide whether it should hold a referendum.
The Leader assured Members that Rotherham was not becoming part of Sheffield, but on the basis of the economic footprint, with Sheffield as the big city in our area, to access funding and powers from Government to make decisions in our area of the country which would be more beneficial to ratepayers. The benefits could not be delivered in advance and people would make up their own minds if the decision to proceed was the right one. This was indeed a commitment made as a party back in May and the direction of travel the Council wished to proceed on.
(4) Councillor Carter asked what was the Council’s preferred HS2 route through South Yorkshire?
Councillor Lelliott confirmed the Council’s preferred HS2 route through South Yorkshire was via a station adjacent to the M1 Motorway near Meadowhall.
At the Council meeting on 7th September, 2016 (Minute No. 11A) the Council agreed a motion to this effect and the position had not changed since then.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked what public consultation was performed on behalf of the Council to come to that Council position for that preferred route.
Councillor Lelliott explained consultation was undertaken by HS2 Ltd. via Area Assemblies and the public. The Council, however, had not undertaken any public consultation as the cost of consulting across the whole borough, during difficult financial times, would be colossal to influence a decision which it may not have any control over. The Council believed the best economic option and benefits to the people of Rotherham was for a station adjacent to the M1 Motorway near Meadowhall and not the other options put forward.
(5) Councillor Napper asked what measures did the Council take to tackle housing fraud with regards to the right to buy, where someone had previously bought a Council house.
Councillor Beck explained purchasing a property under the Right to Buy when the applicant had already bought under the Right to Buy before was not in itself a form of fraud and the relevant legislation did not prevent this from happening. However, in such circumstances the applicant was obliged to formally declare any previous discount they have received on the claim form itself; this was so that the applicant’s current eligible discount could be reduced accordingly. Failure to declare a discount previously received would be a form of fraud.
In a supplementary question Councillor Napper pointed out he had been led to believe this had happened on a couple of occasions where someone had obtained a Council house, lived in it and then got another one.
Councillor Beck asked if Councillor Napper was aware of any particular cases if he contacted him he would endeavour to look into this further.
(6) Councillor Carter’s question had been asked as a supplementary to Question No. 4.
(7) Councillor Napper referred to fly tipping on the old Silverwood site of building waste, old settees etc. which were dumped out of site of the road/footpaths. This was private land owned by Ogdens Ltd. but was open to public access and asked what could RMBC do to help sites on this nature reserve.
Councillor Hoddinott explained the blight of fly tipping was a problem not just in Rotherham and Keep Britain Tidy had reported only this week of up to fifty incidents a day. Some of the examples given relate to professional fly tippers who were being paid and who were flaunting rules and dumping in places such as this.
Whilst the site was private land, the Council could assist landowners to protect their land from fly-tipping. This might include the use of barriers or boulders for example, to prevent access or assistance with evidence gathering and prosecution. Councillor Hoddinott would check officers were in touch with the landowners to help and support them to put measures in place and also catch those doing it.
(8) Councillor Carter asked what was the Leader’s preferred HS2 route through South Yorkshire?
The Leader explained the preferred HS2 route which brought the maximum benefit to Rotherham and the whole of the Sheffield City Region was via a station adjacent to the M1 Motorway near Meadowhall.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked, given that fact, the route proposed would cost £1 billion extra what services would the Council Leader cut to fund this Meadowhall Station.
The Leader believed the DfT had indicated they could save £1 billion to run a spur through the centre of Sheffield, but would need to electrify the route through the middle of Sheffield which would cost £500,000. There were a number of costs associated with taking a spur route through to Sheffield including protection across the Parkway. A formal statement had been submitted to Government as part of the consultation process pointing out that we think they were mistaken in terms of the cost analysis.
(9) Councillor Napper referred to a recent interview where the Minister for Housing stated that only in exceptional circumstances would the building of houses on Green Belt land be allowed and only after the available brown belt land had been used and asked what exceptional circumstances did the Bassingthorpe Farm Project have.
Councillor Lelliott explained the National Planning Policy Framework allowed for the alteration of Green Belt boundaries through the preparation or review of a Local Plan, which the Council had been doing and which could then identify key sites that could provide for new housing in the future.
The Bassingthorpe Farm site was removed from the Green Belt when the Local Plan Core Strategy was adopted in September, 2014. This was a key strategic site delivering over 2,000 homes. This was the only site available to deliver that level of housing and to fit in with the Local Plan which was currently sitting with the Local Planning Inspector for approval.
In a supplementary question Councillor Napper asked why in our current plan we were proposing to take 40 acres at Todwick for building and 30 and 16 hectares on Cumwell Lane as this was just eating up the Green Belt.
Councillor Lelliott pointed out that as part of the Local Plan key sites had to be identified. If not the Government would identify the sites for us. Originally the Government were instructing the Council to build over 20,000 homes, but following appeal this number was reduced to just over 14,000.
A decision on the Local Plan was due in May and this would then be brought to Members It was the Council’s intention to only want to build houses on the sites identified and to minimise building houses on the Green Belt.
(10) Councillor Carter asked what were the room hire fees charged by RMBC for the use of Town Hall rooms for party political meetings?
The Leader reported on the long standing arrangement where Elected Members were able to use the Town Hall meetings rooms for political and group meetings free of charge.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter referred to political meetings and the intention in the budget to increase revenue from room hire and asked why the two political parties were holding political meetings in the Council rooms.
The Leader again explained about the long standing policy in Rotherham whereby Councillors were able to meet with their political colleagues free of charge.
(11) Councillor Napper asked when was the survey done to show that 81% of Rotherham residents were happy with Rotherham.
Councillor Hoddinott explained the survey in question was an independent survey commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) and conducted by Populus Data Solutions.
A statistically representative random sample of 520 Rotherham adults was interviewed by telephone and asked:-
“Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with your local area as a place to live?”
81% of respondents said that they were very or fairly satisfied with their local area as a place to live.
This was noted as there had been a rise in the number of residents saying they were satisfied with Rotherham which was something to recognise and be proud of.
In a supplementary question Councillor Napper pointed out that in the letters to the Rotherham Advertiser quite a few residents were not satisfied and did not like coming into Rotherham town centre which made you wonder why.
Councillor Hoddinott explained that from those surveyed 19% were still dissatisfied and may be disproportionally represented so there was still work to do to address the concerns and ensure that they were satisfied with Rotherham as a place to live.
(12) Councillor Carter asked what was the Council doing with Adult Social Care to ensure that the most vulnerable people in Rotherham received the care they deserve?
Councillor Roche explained the Council’s priorities for Adult Services was for every adult to be secure responsible and empowered. The Adult Social Care Vision and Strategy set out the ambition that “adults with disabilities and older people and their carers in Rotherham were supported to be independent and resilient so that they could live good quality lives and enjoy good health and wellbeing”.
The Strategy would enable these outcomes to be delivered and contained seven key elements:-
· We must ensure that information, advice and guidance is readily available (e.g. by increasing self-assessment) and there are a wide range of community assets which are accessible.
· We must focus on maintaining independence through prevention and early intervention (e.g. assistive technology) and enablement and rehabilitation.
· We must improve our approach to personalised services – always putting users and carers at the centre of everything we do.
· We must develop integrated services with partners and where feasible single points of access.
· We must ensure we “make safeguarding personal”.
· We must commission services effectively working in partnership and co-producing with users and carers.
· We must use our resources effectively.
There was an Improvement Board in place to oversee the changes that were required to the Adult Social Care service.
There were several groups of vulnerable people in Rotherham and it would take a long time to explain the level of support provided to each of these groups. However, Councillor Roche was happy to meet with Councillor Carter if he required it. Large cuts to these services had introduced initially by the coalition and then more recently by the current Government. However, as a result of external reviews the direction of travel now seen in Rotherham was positive.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked, given only fifty words was allowed for questions, could the Cabinet Member keep his answer brief next time.
(13) Councillor Mick Elliott referred to the recent news of progress on the Forge Island Site development which was most welcome, but asked when would this Council address the eyesore of the derelict and fire ravaged properties on Corporation Street?
Councillor Lelliott explained the Council was keen to see progress on this site, but progress was limited. If a property was deemed safe then nothing could be done unless a plan was in place for that building.
Over the last eighteen months numerous letters had been sent to the last known address of the owners of those properties. However, in order to purchase a property under Compulsory Purchase Order a plan must be in place for that property. As Members may be aware the Town Centre Masterplan was to be launched and once this identified the properties on Corporation Street the Compulsory Purchase Order process could commence. These were strict Government and legal guidelines that must be followed.
In a supplementary question Councillor Mick Elliott indicated that, although the Council was keen to regenerate the town and once the masterplan had been received from consultants, why were the Council not doing more and being more proactive with the demolition everyone knows about. Corporation Street was mentioned, but there were also eyesores on the corner of Hollowgate with scaffolding which had been around a building for a number of years and what must visiting fans think of the eyesore on the Guest and Chrimes site. He, therefore, asked if there were any plans to intervene to resolve the stalemate situation with that building.
Councillor Lelliott explained the building on the Guest and Chrimes site was Grade 2 listed, but this all came back to the plan and reiterated the Council had little control over properties they did not own.
The masterplan would underpin regeneration and discussions were taking place with developers in looking at key sites in the area. In terms of progress New York Stadium was a derelict site, but more could now be done with the purchase of Forge Island, the law courts and the new H.E. Campus on the old Doncaster Gate Hospital site.
(14) Councillor Carter asked what determined when a library was upgraded or refurbished?
Councillor Yasseen explained all Council properties were subject to a five year cycle of condition surveys, which determined what works were required to maintain the condition of the estate.
These condition works were then prioritised against the funding available with health and safety and keeping the building open the priority.
Councillor Carter was possibly alluding to the Brinsworth and Catcliffe library which was a portacabin internally and had existed for many years. Whilst being maintained it was old, small and really unfit for purpose. Over the past year discussions had been taking place with Polly Hamilton, Elenore Fisher, the Parish Council and Councillor Buckley regarding viable options for better library provision as part of the new Library Strategy, which would look to use buildings as a community hub providing more than one relevant service.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked would the administration assure Brinsworth Library would be upgraded by the end of 2019.
Councillor Yasseen was unable to give the reassurance at this stage and outlined the important piece of work in the Place Review looking at localities which was being supported by the Cabinet. This would ensure that services were in the right place with the right level of provision. In addition two applications for funding had been submitted to Innovation Funding, which would facilitate some of the preliminary work in Brinsworth. Councillor Carter was urged to make contact and contribute to this work along with Councillor Buckley.
(15) Councillor Mick Elliott commended that Council Meetings and Committees were webcast to the public. It provided openness and transparency, but asked what was the cost of the service provider to Rotherham taxpayers?
The Leader explained that Council had a contract with Public-i who hosted many Council meetings and cost the Council £18,000 per year.
In a supplementary question Councillor Mick Elliott asked would it be more cost effective to upload the webcast image to You Tube like other Councils as the cost as far as he was aware would be minimal.
The Leader confirmed this had been looked at when webcasting had been introduced. The issue was around staffing and the organisational time required. The decision was based on our current system being the most cost effective way of doing it on a streaming basis.
(16) Councillor Carter asked what was the Council’s policy for reviewing road safety measures on roads?
Councillor Hoddinott reported the Council was guided by the Safer Roads Partnership Safer Roads Casualty Reduction Strategy which looked at a number of factors, including the number of accidents in an area balanced against what could be done to re-model and improve road safety.
Councillor Carter referred to a pensioner being injured in the summer on Bawtry Road in Brinsworth and asked if the Council was waiting for someone to die before it reviewed road safety on this road.
Councillor Hoddinott understood Councillor Carter had been campaigning for local residents on this and asked that the petition in circulation be submited so the Council could address those concerns.
(17) Councillor Sansome referred to a commitment at a recent OSMB concerning apprenticeships and further education for those children in care to be able to achieve the required grades and gain invaluable work experience and asked could the Deputy Leader advise if/how many have been successfully offered an apprenticeship and further education.
Councillor Watson referred to the Corporate Parenting Panel where it was reported that 72% of care leavers were in Education Employment or Training. This was much higher than the national average of 48%. Of the remaining 28%, 13% were unavailable for work due to personal circumstances, leaving 15% or thirty-three young people, who were actively seeking to engage in some sort of positive learning and development activity.
It was also very pleasing to report that twelve care leavers were in Higher Education, which was in line with national averages and plans were being developed to ensure all care leavers have access to an apprenticeship if this is the route they choose.
Often children who had been in care had not had a good educational experience and had not achieve the five A-C’s GCSEs required. Work was now taking place on pre-apprenticeship programmes so by the time a young person arrived at apprenticeship age they had the right tools to obtain placements.
In a supplementary question Councillor Sansome asked if the other Directorates were offering the same commitment to deliver the same apprenticeships and work experience and suggested this be moved onto the work plan for the Improving Lives Select Commission.
Councillor Watson confirmed he was happy to work with the Improving Lives Select Commission and explained the Council’s partner, Wilmot Dixon, was ringfencing sixteen apprenticeships for care leavers. This long train of work was happening alongside the Chamber of Trade and other departments.
(18) Councillor Carter referred to international companies moving to the Advanced Manufacturing Park, it was the image of Rotherham people would see and asked what was the Council doing about the appearance of that area?
Councillor Lelliott explained that it was marvellous that Rotherham was successfully associated with global brands like McLaren and Boeing who were choosing to invest here and strengthen the already world-class facilities at the Advanced Manufacturing Park.
Maintenance of the AMP site and common areas was managed by the landowner Harworth Estates through a service charge arrangement with the various occupiers and work was taking place with the developers to ensure a masterplan was in place that considered place-making and environment and importantly delivered high-quality development and a broad range of amenities in an attractive setting.
If there were any specific complaints or areas of concerns Councillor Lelliott asked that Councillor Carter pass these on.
(19) Councillor B. Cutts asked what was the annual cost of translation in Rotherham over the last five years and how was it incurred, but he confirmed he was content with the detail being placed in the minutes and did not require an answer being read out in full.
Councillor Read, the Leader, chose to explain the average annual cost of interpretation services over the last five years was approximately £188k per annum. 90% of the cost was allocated to the two social care departments for translation services for the borough’s most vulnerable residents.
In a supplementary question Councillor B. Cutts asked if the year on year cost information could be set out in detail in writing and be included as part of the addendum to the minutes.
The Leader confirmed the detail would be forwarded onto Councillor Cutts.
(20) Councillor Carter referred to a lot of money being spent to try to improve the traffic flow around the Advanced Manufacturing Park and asked why had money been wasted on expensive unused traffic lights nearby?
Councillor Hoddinott welcomed the opportunity to share information about the traffic lights and explained the scheme to improve traffic flows around the Advanced Manufacturing Park at Waverley was designed and funded by Harworth Estates as part of planning requirements.
There have been delays in terms of switching on the traffic signals due to further design work being required. The developer’s contractor was now finalising arrangements to fully implement the scheme, which would be extremely helpful for the safety of pedestrians.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter referred to the changing layouts and signage at the Morrisons junction and the previous promises that the lights would be in operation for the New Year and asked why there was currently a delay and if a date had been set for the lights to be switched on.
Councillor Hoddinott again confirmed the delays were with Harworth’s contractors. Further information on an operation date would be sought.
(21) Councillor B. Cutts asked what was the number of new “registered” foreign nationals living in Rotherham. He agreed to this information being provided in writing and pointed out not all the questions were directed from him, but were as a result of interest expressed by the public.
(22) Councillor Carter asked what was the Council doing to ensure that class sizes remained at or below an optimum maximum class size of 30 in primary schools in Rotherham?
Councillor Watson explained no infant class sizes (reception, year 1 and year 2) were allowed to be above 30 pupils to one qualified teacher ratio, under the DfE’s infant class size legislation. The only exceptions allowed to this legally were classed as ‘excepted pupils’. As the pupils move from infant to junior phase, class structures are maintained.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked given some schools in Brinsworth and Catcliffe had class sizes of thirty four what class size did the Council deem unacceptable.
Councillor Watson explained any class sizes above the thirty limit were due to excepted pupils allocated as a result of a successful appeal by an independent appeals panel, if the child was looked after or previously looked after, or if a child’s Social Health and Care Plan named a particular school. If Councillor Carter wished to discuss this further and put the details in writing the Deputy Leader was more than happy to assist.
(23) Councillor B. Cutts asked when the Commmissioners were returning full control back to the Cabinet Member, why was there “no” member of the opposition present, was the meeting minuted and how do the public know if or what had changed?
Councillor Read, the Leader, confirmed he did not fully understand the nature of the question, but confirmed the returning of powers to the Council was subject to review by the Joint Improvement Board, chaired by the Lead Commissioner, which the Leader of the Opposition attended. It was also pointed out that any further return of powers by the Secretary of State to the Council on the recommendation of the Commissioners had been well publicised in the local media and within the Council and was available to members of the public via the Council’s website.
In a supplementary question Councillor B. Cutts asked where members of the public could look for the information and be advised and what changed.
Councillor Read, the Leader, referred Councillor Cutts to the area where formal decisions were recorded by the Cabinet and Commissioners, the Forward Plan of Key Decisions and on the agendas for Cabinet/Commissioner decision making where it was fully documented who the decision maker was.
(24) Councillor Carter asked what distance did the Council deem acceptable for a child to have to travel to primary school?
Councillor Watson explained the DfE determined that two miles for primary schools and three miles for secondary schools was a reasonable distance to travel to school.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked was it acceptable for some children from Waverley to travel past two primary schools.
Councillor Watson confirmed that without the details about the children it was impossible to determine if it was acceptable or not as it could well be the parents had chosen particular schools for their children.
This authority had an excellent track record in ensuring access to good schools locally, with consistently higher than national averages for families securing their first, second or third school and 94% received their first choice against the national figure of 67%. It was also pointed out there were no children who were not offered a place in their local catchment school, but the Deputy Leader was happy to look at individual cases.
(25) Councillor B. Cutts asked what was the updated circumstances with respect to RMBC re-purchasing the leases of the retail units between Corporation Street and Forge Island?
Councillor Lelliott reported that should a deal be agreed the Council would expect Heads of Terms to be complete by the June, 2017.
(26) Councillor Carter asked was it acceptable for primary school children to be forced to walk along a muddy unlit path to get to school?
Councillor Watson explained there should be a safe walking route to any local school within a resident’s catchment area for school. If there were concerns about a particular designated walking route, then if details could be provided, he would ask Officers to investigate further.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter referred to some children from the Waverley estate walking along unlit muddy routes and would appreciate work on this to rectify the matter.
The Deputy Leader asked Councillor Carter to furnish him with details immediately after the meeting and he would start working on it the following day.
(27) Councillor B. Cutts considered this to be a misuse of yellow pages and asked what circumstances or condition dictated that the public should “not” be party to and know the content of the agreement to the transfer of part of Boston Castle Park from Rotherham Council to the Yorkshire Water (yellow pages 75-80 Council Meeting 25th January, 2017).
Councillor Yasseen corrected the assumption that the decision on this land transfer had already taken place, when negotiations were still ongoing as to whether the site was appropriate and that the right site was chosen. The two bits of information which were exempt from the press and public were the valuation of Yorkshire Water’s land and the valuation of the Council land, which was information that was not in the public domain.
Councillor B. Cutts believed the response he had received was typical of yellow pages being used unnecesarily. Almost the same circumstances were happening on the other side of town with all the public knowing about it. He asked who were the Friends of Boston Castle and were they members of the public. He had received confirmation that the people involved were members of the public, but we as a Council chose to put information on yellow pages. On the one hand members of the public were disussing and agreeing matters and yet, the same subject, was restricted to Members.
Councillor Yasseen explained the Friends of Boston Castle were in fact volunteers and again emphasised that the reasons for the restrictions were due to the good negotiations taking place with Yorkshire Water on site suitability, accountability, land transfer and contributions. Whilst no decision had yet been made the Council were wanting to ensure that matters were dealt with effectively and the best site was sought, whilst bearing in mind the possibility of Yorkshire Water’s right of compulsory purchase. The two bits of confidential information referred to were the valuation of Yorkshire Water land and the valuation of the Council-owned land. These details had not been shared with anyone in the public domain.
The Mayor suggested Councillor Cutts have a private discussion with Councillor Yasseen regarding this matter after this meeting.
(28) Councillor Carter asked could the Deputy Leader explain why he recently wrote that funds for a new Waverley school were being released as originally planned when the Cabinet approved changes in 2014 delaying the release of funds until 40% more houses were built, leading to a delay in building the school.
Councillor Watson confirmed that whilst the original plan in 2014 was approved a downturn in the economy meant the properties on the Waverley estate were not selling as quickly as intended and as such in 2014 the principal developers at the Waverley development requested a ‘deed of variation’ to the original Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act financial agreement to the number of properties being occupied, which had resulted in more apartments than houses being built which had been occupied at the same time as the houses would have been. This meant the 2020 opening date for the school would still be hit and in the interim this Council had approved the extension to other schools in the catchment to accommodate the children from Waverley.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter referred to the frustration of residents at Waverley and the delay in having to travel quite far to a school and asked if the Council could pledge to bring the school building project forward.
Councillor Watson explained the Council had no control of the building of the school and a 2020 completion date was anticipated. An independent panel had also been established which included residents of the Waverley estate. A recommendation would have to be made to the Regional Schools’ Commission as to which academy would be appointed to allow the school to be built.
(29) Councillor B. Cutts referred to the bus station and Council on the 19th October, 2016 - Question 5 and then again on 7th December, 2016 - Question 4 regarding the repair for the sum of £10 million. He explained how in a casual conversation with people of understanding and knowledge they fell about laughing at a suggested repair fee of £10 million when it was expected to be under £1 million and he asked how could this situation come about, or was there another agenda?
Councillor Lelliott explained there were two separate issues regarding the Interchange. Firstly, the fire damage repairs of £1 million and then the concrete rot and refurbishment and upgrade to the Interchange. The total cost estimate for the project was currently £12.6M.
This cost included for repairs to the multi-storey car park, and the fire damage, together with refurbishment and temporary facilities that would need to be provided on the highway whilst the works were being undertaken. The responsibility lay with SYPTE to design the repair/refurbishment works and engage a contractor to implement them some time in October, 2017.
In a supplementary question Councillor B. Cutts referred to the refurbishment and whether this related to the floor and the car park or the damage to the electrics. He confirmed he was not interested in the response as he had some correspondence, which he was happy to share with the Mayor, which indicated the Council wanted to relocate the interchange.
Councillor Lelliott restated that the £1 million for the fire damage when a bus caught fire would be through an insurance claim and the £10 million related to the refurbishment of the interchange. A direct link could be provided on when the details were approved and when it would commence.
(30) Councillor Carter referred to finding out last year that some of Rotherham’s vulnerable looked after children had been sent as far away as Portsmouth for overnight care and asked how many of these children have been sent outside of the local authority area in the past three months?
Councillor Watson confirmed that in the period from the beginning of December, 2016 to the end of February, 2017 there have been eighteen placements made outside of Rotherham. This number represented 4% of the total looked after children population. Placements outside the local authority area were often essential, depending on each child’s individual needs. It was quite normal, for example, to place a child at risk of CSE outside the area, whilst they worked with the authorities to bear witness against their abusers in court. In such circumstances, it is important to protect children from any intimidation at the hands of alleged perpetrators. In other cases, children may be placed out of area in specialist placements that were not available within the local authority boundary. That, said the Council’s strategy was to place as many children locally as possible.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter referred to the 4% of looked after children and asked if the Deputy Leader was accepting that there should be fewer people going out or was this not the case.
Councillor Watson explained that over the three months eighteen children had been placed outside the borough. However, for historical reasons the percentage outside the borough was greater during the period when the Authority was not performing well. Young people currently placed outside the borough and doing well would not be moved, but over time the proportion of looked after children in Rotherham would steadily increase as the sufficiency strategy evolved.
(31) Councillor B. Cutts referred to two public town demonstrations on Saturday, 25th February, 2017 and asked who was responsible for the detailed programme and approval.
Councillor Read, the Leader, confirmed that the responsibility for the programme lay with South Yorkshire Police, the lead agency for dealing with the protests.
In a supplementary question Councillor Cutts asked again, whilst the Police were responsible for the programme, who approved it.
Councillor Read, the Leader, explained the Police and the demonstrators have to come to some agreement over the protest and the Police do that in consultation with other partners. However, the final approval of responsibility lay with the Police.
(32) Councillor Carter referred to Rotherham Councillors representing 3,125 voters on average. In Sheffield this number was 4,629. If Sheffield could manage to run one of the country’s largest cities on this ratio, asked then why had Rotheham not reduced the number of Councillors accordingly?
The Leader explained that whilst comparisons between authorities could be useful in assisting the Local Government Boundary Commission for England determining an appropriate number of Councillors, the most important thing was about Councillors serving the interest of their communities and governance of the Council and having applied and met the test a small reduction in the number of Councillors had been agreed.
(33) Councillor Carter asked the Leader if he could please explain why the administration had made 123 staff redundant or retire early in this financial year and why this was necessary?
The Leader recognised the number of 123, but pointed out staffing had been reduced by 1700 since 2010 because the Government had enforced a long period of austerity, which included the people on Councillor Carter’s election campaign.
(34) Councillor Carter asked how much has been spent on paying for B&Bs or hotels as emergency housing solutions in the last financial year?
Councillor Beck confirmed during 2015/2016, there was £2,269 spent to pay for rent in advance to secure bedsits to help single homeless people. The bedsits were linked to a hotel and are let on a six month assured short hold tenancy basis.
Only single homeless people who have approached Key Choices and have no other housing options available to them were referred to these bedsits.