To receive questions from members of the public who wish to ask a general question in respect of matters within the Council’s area of responsibility or influence.
Subject to the Chair’s discretion, members of the public may ask one question and one supplementary question, which should relate to the original question and answered received.
Members of the Council may also ask questions under this agenda item.
(1) A member of the public described how the Rotherham population was less than that in Sheffield with a smaller Council budget and unlike Sheffield had many services over the past few years run by Government appointed Commissioners. The Rotherham Advertiser published last Friday the Leader having claimed £5,441 more in allowances than the Leader of Sheffield City Council, the Deputy Leader claiming £2,643 more than the Deputy Leader of Sheffield and the Cabinet Members claiming £2,109 which was more than the highest member of Sheffield’s Cabinet. The member of the public, therefore, asked if he could have an explanation from each Member in turn given the role of highly paid Commissioners.
The Leader pointed out there was no need for individual comments as everyone would give the same answer. Each area had an Independent Remuneration Panel who looked at the work of Councillors and apportioned allowance accordingly. Three years ago when he was appointed as Leader the allowances for Members were reduced broadly speaking in line with the South Yorkshire averages which took out 25% of the cost of Members. Last year the allowances were reduced again by 1% in line with the terms and conditions changes to staff.
What other places paid in allowances was a matter for them. When the Leader initially started Rotherham’s allowances were expensive. However, this was not now the case and reasonable process had followed. All reasonable steps had been taken to reduce the amount of money Councillors cost.
In a supplementary question the member of the public referred to Members claiming more than Sheffield even with Commissioners last year running services. However, a favourite cut of this Council appeared to be school crossing patrols even in his own Ward of Thrybergh. The collective extra for the Cabinet was £18,629 more than Sheffield equivalents which was over 2,000 hours of school crossing patrols or enough to put three school crossing patrols back and asked if they could be returned.
The Leader reminded the member of the public that the cost of Councillors had been reduced in Rotherham by 25% and for something like £7,000 less than his predecessor as Leader in order to protect services. Councillors needed to be remunerated accordingly and some undertook this on a full time basis. Even if it was decided to remove the amount of money that Councillors were paid this would only pay for 1/15th of the amount of money in the next financial year that needed to be saved.
On school crossing patrols the Council had tried to put in place a policy where there was a need based on national guidelines and the Council would pay for them There were a number that did not meet the national guidelines, but schools were asked if they wanted to pay for a crossing patrol. Both funds for support to Members and school crossing patrols had been reduced and these were reasonable compromises in the circumstances.
(2) The member of the public also referred to a question he had asked at Cabinet on the 21st May, 2018, about the Chesterhill housing development at Thrybergh which was kindly responded to. In that letter the Leader had said a decision had been made to drop the Keepmoat scheme. Last Thursday at the Thrybergh Parish Council meeting neither the Chair nor the Clerk had been informed that the scheme was no longer viable considering they were involved in drawing up the consultation first time around.
Given that there were forty-four days since that Cabinet meeting why had no-one been in touch with the Parish Council to let them know what was happening.
The Leader was unable to comment on the specifics, but the Council policy had not changed with the intention of seeing development on that site. It would not necessarily mean that the Parish Council would automatically be alerted to this. The Leader was happy to check and feedback.