Agenda item



To put questions, if any, to Cabinet Members and Chairmen (or their representatives) under Council Procedure Rules 11(1) and 11(3).


(1)  Councillor Simpson asked could RMBC add to his request to the Transport Board for a feasibility study of a cable car from Waverley to Sheffield especially linked to park and ride and other areas?


Councillor Lelliott confirmed the Council was developing a business case which sought to identify connectivity improvements to and from Waverley and the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District.  This included walking, cycling and sustainable transport.


In terms of the cable car the Cabinet Member would ask the Transport Section to take a look at the scheme but wider these schemes were typically expensive and may not demonstrate value for money.


In a supplementary question Councillor Simpson was aware this issue had gone to second stage to try and get some funding.  He hoped the Council could be positive about new forms of transport especially things like cable cars which have provided successful in other countries as a commuting mechanism, which not only assisted congestion, but tourism and could be implemented in such schemes, for example Gullivers.


Councillor Lelliott had used similar transport systems abroad and agreed connectively was the key and the aspirations, but the costs associated with cable car technology and the success of such schemes within the UK were expensive and limited.


(2)  Councillor Carter asked why was it that 13 roads in the Leader’s Ward were scheduled to be repaired in the next year, whereas only 4 roads in Brinsworth and Catcliffe ward were scheduled for repair?


Councillor Hoddinott advised the Leader took road repairs very seriously and if Councillor Carter had attended the highways seminar last week he would see £50 million was being invested on roads over 5 years locally.  There was only seven road repairs in the Leader’s Ward, 8 in the Sitwell Ward, 19 in Aston and Woodsetts and 14 in Rother Vale. 


Roads were assessed by officers to a set criteria.  There were more plans for Brinsworth this year, but in order to minimise disruption to residents these rolled forward to next year due to works with Virgin Media.  Residents of Brinsworth would see the benefit of Labour’s investment in roads over the next few years.


(3)  Councillor Mallinder asked if she could have a progress report on the community allotments in Dinnington.


Councillor Hoddinott thanked Councillor Mallinder and local residents for raising the issue of the Victoria Street allotments and working together to address some of the issues.  Some improvement had been made including:-


·                Formal notices being served on allotment plot owners, which had resulted in waste being cleared and fencing erected to prevent further fly-tipping. The exception being however, that fencing to the community allotment was still awaited, but it was anticipated this would be a start date would be confirmed by the end of this week.

·                Conifers have been cut back along the footpath that ran across the back of the Victoria Street allotments following enforcement action against the owners. This had allowed more light onto the footpath and allotments.

·                A range of warnings have been issued to landlords and tenants on Leicester Road, Scarsdale Street and Victoria Street, to tackle fly-tipping, accumulations of waste and housing safety.  Whilst most landlords and tenants have complied, 7 fines have been issued to landlords on Leicester Road together with action being taken for breaches of Selective Licensing.

·                Joint patrols have been organised with the Police on a weekly basis around the allotments and neighbouring streets to ensure continued action and a sustainable approach.


Progress was pleasing and tribute was paid to the Ward Councillors and local residents for their support and it was hoped that the progress made would be maintained.


(4)  Councillor Cowles asked, with reference to the recent CSE reports, who from the Council agreed the 'Terms of Reference' for the investigations with the interim Chief Executive and in particular for the Gowlings report?


The Leader confirmed the Terms of Reference were agreed by the Interim Chief Executive, Jan Ormondroyd, in consultation with the former Director of Legal and Democratic Services, Jacqueline Collins.


In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked, even though Councillor Read was not Leader at the time, how soon after he became Leader was he aware the reports had been commissioned.


The Leader confirmed he was aware of the reports being commissioned as he was present in the Council Meeting when the then Leader, Paul Lakin, asked for them.  It would have been some time after that he became aware they had been commissioned as external pieces of work.


(5)  Councillor Carter referred to the fantastic news that Clifton Park had been named as one of the nation’s best parks and was sure everyone would agree that everyone deserved a fantastic winning local park within walking distance. He asked could the Cabinet Member explain the plans to do this now the new officer was in post?


Councillor Yasseen explained Rotherham residents were fortunate to access a number of parks across the Borough of high quality green spaces.  It was an honour for Clifton Park and for Rotherham to be recognised by public vote across Yorkshire. 


However, in times of Tory damaging austerity maintaining the quality and standards of all parks across the Borough meant the Council had to work in more innovative ways and one such partnership with Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust across 4 pilot areas was to encourage local residents to become involved with parks and green spaces and take greater ownership.


(6)  Councillor Allock was unable to ask his question so in accordance with the procedure would receive a response in writing.


(7)  Councillor Napper asked what was the Council’s policy with regards to parking on double yellow lines in the town?


Councillor Lelliott advised the Council has a duty to undertake parking enforcement activities under the auspices of the Traffic Management Act 2004.  The Council’s Civil Enforcement Officers undertook enforcement action, including yellow line contraventions where Traffic Regulation Orders were in place in the Town Centre. 


Penalty Charge Notices were issued where appropriate, however, observation times were taken into consideration where loading and unloading was permitted. 


The aim was to maintain and improve the free and safe flow of traffic, thereby making Rotherham a more pleasant and safe place for all highway users.


In a supplementary question Councillor Napper referred to the double yellow lines and the indiscriminate parking on Wellgate directly under the traffic lights near the turn off with Hollowgate.  He also referred to direct flaunting after 5.00 p.m. on both Westgate and Fitzwilliam Road and asked if Enforcement Officers could patrol after 5.00 p.m. in these areas.


Councillor Lelliott advised extra patrols of the Enforcement Officers activities did take place.  On Wellgate action had been taken to remove and clamp offending vehicles.  The Cabinet Member gave her assurance that indiscriminate parking was taken seriously and some measures had been placed on Wellgate to stop such activity.   Work would continue with the Highway Enforcement Team under difficult circumstances, especially when it came to issuing tickets and the difficulties encountered when vehicles had no registered keeper.


(8)  Councillor Cowles asked who acted as the project manager facing off to the consultants throughout the process, in particular for the Gowlings investigation?


The Leader explained there was no one person as project manager, but there were main points of contact:-


·                    Gowling WLG report - initially the Deputy Monitoring Officer, Stuart Fletcher, and one of the Human Resources Managers, Simon Cooper, and following the departure of the Human Resources Manager, the Monitoring Officer and the Deputy Monitoring Officer.

·                    Weightman report - initially the Deputy Monitoring Officer, Stuart Fletcher, and one of the Human Resources Managers, Simon Cooper, and following the departure of the Human Resources Manager, the Monitoring Officer and the Deputy Monitoring Officer.

·                    Internal Audit – The then Assistant Director for Audit, ICT and Procurement and after his departure the Head of Internal Audit.

·                    A to O report – the then Human Resources Manager, Simon Cooper.


In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked if the Leader ever personally attended any of the update meetings or did he rely solely on these people to monitor progress.


The Leader confirmed he had not attended the meetings with report authors, but was dependent upon the updates on progress from officers.


(9)  Councillor Carter referred to earlier this year when assurances were given of a review into waste management and the possibility of plastic being recycled at the kerbside and asked for an update on progress made here and whether residents could look forward to kerbside plastic recycling in the near future.


Councillor Hoddinott advised the waste collection service review was progressing and a report would be presented to Cabinet in November. 


The unique BDR plant at Manvers was removing plastics included in residents’ domestic waste during processing as part of the waste diversion operation which was sent for re-use. The plant had recycled 10,000 tonnes of plastic since commissioning.  


Members did have the opportunity to visit the site and look how waste was treated.


In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked if there was any literature, videos or media that could be shown to residents in the interim period.


Councillor Hoddinott agreed there was a need to promote the plant activity and the good work and had asked if a video could be produced on how plastic being recycled.  However, the recycling process was within an enclosed box, so any video material would be limited.  Huge progress had made over the last 16 years when only 3% of waste was recycled as opposed to now 40% moving towards 50%, but more could be done.


(10)  Councillor Cowles asked was it the internal project manager who was responsible for reporting the progress made and was it then them who authorised invoices for payment?


The Leader confirmed officers with the point of contact roles reported on progress.  They then checked invoices and payment was authorised by the Monitoring Officer, and his predecessors in that role.


(11)  Councillor Napper confirmed he was involved in this matter, to which he declared, as it related to the use of Urban Green Space land for charity events.  He asked if the Council thought charging £11.00 per hour and £15.50 administration fee was fair?


Councillor Yasseen confirmed fees and charges for events organised by charities and community groups were very reasonable and necessary to allow for the provision of the required level of service.


The Council was facing a budget gap of £42 million and if it did not charge for the use of some of its green spaces or for its assets it would not make any inroad to responding to the cuts. 


The fees only partially cover the costs for work including site inspection, litter picking, site reinstatement, issue and processing of application forms, checking risk assessments, insurance and other documentation, providing advice and guidance, and query handling.  Comparable charges made by other local authorities included £61 administration fee at Doncaster, compared to Rotherham’s £15.50.  Sheffield was a £60 minimum hire charge, Kirklees a minimum of £53. 


Members were encouraged to use their devolved budget through the Community Leadership Fund for this type of purpose and utilise it to support communities and engage activity in the Ward.


In a supplementary question Councillor Napper confirmed the fees had been paid to the Council, but asked once it was confirmed the land was not Council-owned would the fees and administration fee paid be reimbursed.


Councillor Yasseen confirmed the land in question was in the process of transferring to the Council and where there had been an error a reimbursement would be made.


(12)  Councillor Carter asked when would construction of the new library in Brinsworth commence?


Councillor Yasseen suggested, as she had done previously, that Councillor Carter make links with the Parish Council as essentially this was their development and the library was connected to their Community Hub development.  Demolition of the existing Community Hall commenced on 16th October, 2017 and the Parish Council have proposed that works commence early in the New Year for the library to be open by Summer 2018.


(13)  Councillor Cowles asked if the Leader was ever concerned about the length of time taken, that the bill was growing and, that it was evident from an early stage that senior people had left the organisation and could not be held to account for their lack of intervention?


The Leader became increasingly concerned about the length of time for the reports and less concerned about the cost of the work as this needed to be completed. Towards the end of the process the Leader had asked for update on the progress, but due to the legal work required around the publication of the reports the end date had been uncertain.


(14)  Councillor Carter asked would the Council be in favour of further Supertram expansion to other areas of Rotherham?


Councillor Lelliott confirmed extensions to the Tram Train network offered the opportunity to considerably enhance the public transport network and provide a step change in accessibility.  However, the Council did not have any further developments under consideration at the moment.


In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked about the difficulties in engaging people in the town centre and asked what current plans were being used to get residents into the town centre.


Councillor Lelliott explained about the content within the Town Centre Masterplan, the improved work near the interchange and the parade along with works to the tram train and pedestrian links and working closely with businesses and the proposed developments within the Master Plan to look at opportunities for tendering.


(15)  Councillor Cowles asked, given that it was evident from an early stage that the terms of reference for the Gowlings Report were limited to this organisation and that other organisations needed to be involved, did the Leader never feel that it was time to draw stumps in favour of a wider brief?


The Leader confirmed he did not and still maintained that had he intervened to change the Terms of Reference, this would have cast a shadow on the whole process.


(16)  Councillor Carter asked how was the Leader going to rebuild trust in the Sheffield City Region project following the catastrophic breakdown in relationship between the 4 South Yorkshire boroughs?


The Leader could not describe the breakdown in communications as catastrophic, but a difference of opinion on the devolution deal.  The 4 South Yorkshire Councils continued to work on the economic development activity across the Sheffield City Region which brought employment and financial benefits to Rotherham.  He would continue to pursue these as long as he could.


In a supplementary question Councillor Carter referred to Rotherham missing out on £30 million investment and having to fund the bill for a new almost powerless Elected Mayor in May, 2018 and asked the Leader if he would review his position within the region and his leadership role in the Council.


The Leader confirmed he would not, but would continue to seek the benefits for Rotherham under the existing arrangements for the Sheffield City Region or continue to pursue options under a further devolution deal.


(17)  Councillor Napper asked, now the Government had set up a group to look at taxi licensing laws and set up a minimum standard, would the Leader write to the L.G.A. Chairman of Safety and Stronger Communities Board, Councillor Simon Blackburn, and suggest that the group look at Rotherham’s Taxi Licensing Policy?


Councillor Hoddinott confirmed she had already been in touch with the group and they had a copy of the taxi licensing policy.  She had actually met Councillor Blackburn, Chair of the LGA Board, and they were fully aware of the work in Rotherham.


The Local Government Association had hosted several regional seminars where Rotherham Councillors, and Officers, have provided details of these enhancements to other Councils throughout the country, which had been widely acknowledgement.  The Council should take every opportunity to push the Government to adopt Rotherham’s policy and standards and ensure CCTV in all taxis across the country.


(18)  Councillor Carter asked at the last meeting the Cabinet Member stated “great swathes” of Greenbelt land would be reclassified so that developers could be free to build there and asked what assurances could this Council give that they will protect our countryside?


Councillor Lelliott explained every local authority had to produce a Local Plan. If they did not the Government would produce one for them instead.


When embarking on the Local Plan process, Rotherham was successful in renegotiating its housing number from 20,000 new properties to 14,000.  The Local Plan was currently under inspection and would be finalised by September, 2018. 


Whilst it was acknowledged that Rotherham’s Local Plan would release some Green Belt land for development, this had been kept to a minimum, amounting to around 2% of the current Green Belt, but also allowed a realistic target for future growth to be met.


(19)  Councillor Carter asked how did the Council think we should reduce congestion around Junction 33 and 34 of the M1?


Councillor Lelliott confirmed that, through the Department for Transport’s Local Large Majors Fund, the Council was developing a business case which sought to identify what highway improvements were required to minimise congestion at Junction 33 and 34 and working in partnership with Sheffield City Council.


In addition, the Council was also developing a business case for the A630 widening between the Catcliffe Interchange and the M1 at J33.  This scheme would widen the highway to 3 lanes in each direction, providing more capacity for this strategic link with the priority objective to reduce congestion.


In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked if one of the options being considered was the opening of Wood Lane in Brinsworth or any routes through the village to open the junction and reduce congestion and asked if this was something the Council was in favour of.


Councillor Lelliott advised that officers would explore all options.


(20)  Councillor Carter asked about the number of new sets of traffic lights which had to be switched off within days because they were unfit for purpose and asked what steps were being taken to ensure this would not happen again?


Councillor Lelliott advised the traffic lights at Poplar Way Roundabout, Catcliffe, were carried out by the developer of the Waverley site and did not operate correctly at first.  As soon as this was understood, the developer was able were able to resolve the problem, with support from Council officers.


The new traffic lights at the junction of A618 with the A57 was a very different scenario, but have not performed as expected. Having monitored the junction, the signals on the roundabout have been turned off to undertake a full review of the situation. Officers have investigated all aspects of the scheme and were in the process of understanding the reasons behind the event which in this case were focused on exit blocking from the roundabout and how this had been modelled. Once this was fully understood then appropriate mitigation measures would be developed.


Clearly lessons were learnt by all parties on the Catcliffe Waverley development, and any new issues that came from further understanding of the A618/A57 would be recorded to prevent a reoccurrence in any future schemes of this nature.