To receive questions from members of the public who may wish to ask a general question of the Mayor, Cabinet Member or the Chairman of a Committee in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 12.
(1) Mr. Jackson asked did the Council accept, that any reduction in the amount of green waste composted due to the changes in refuse collection, would be a failure of the Council’s waste policy, and incur unnecessary cost and create a situation of more home composting/garden fires for vulnerable benefits groups.
Councillor Hoddinott did not believe that there would be a failure of the Council’s waste policy. Whilst the Council had no way of knowing how much garden waste was composted in people’s gardens, home composting was the most environmentally friendly way of disposing of garden waste so where it was safe to do so that was to be encouraged. The Council currently had home compost bins on offer at a reduced cost.
Equally there was no evidence from the rest of the country that charging increased the number of garden fires. The Cabinet Member reminded everyone that most Councils in the country have already introduced charges for green waste before Rotherham.
The Cabinet Member had spoken to Mr. Jackson before about the economics of garden waste. As well as collection costs, the disposal of the garden waste that was collected from residents incurred a cost. The Council paid a contractor to treat the waste, which was the case in all other local Authorities. Any proposal to process garden waste and sell the compost that was produced assumed that there was a profit to be made from the process. This was not the case. The cost of processing the waste would hugely outstrip any potential income that could be made.
In a supplementary question Mr. Jackson referred to the Council collecting or making less compost through not have a full collection system. He, therefore, presented some further information to the Mayor which would explain in full and give a glimpse for the future.
The Mayor assured Mr. Jackson he would read the information he had been presented with.
Councillor Hoddinott confirmed, however, that 32,000 households have now signed up for the new garden waste service and so would receive all year round garden waste collections. That was nearly one in three of all the properties in the borough.
Even if the weight of garden waste coming through the Council’s collections reduced, and it may not do, overall it was expected that the full programme of changes that were being introduced would increase the amount of waste recycled in total, and at the same time save the Council about half a million pounds a year.
Officers have offered to meet to discuss this further and this offer still stood to Mr. Jackson.
(2) “T” was unable to attend today’s meeting so the question would be answered in writing.
(3) Mr. D. Smith was unable to attend today’s meeting so the question would be answered in writing.
(4) Mr. Sylvester welcomed the news that Members would be reporting to Council on the work they were doing under the potentially excellent neighbourhood working strategy but asked what procedures would be in place to ensure the reports were robust, factual and relevant to the communities they served?
Councillor Watson confirmed part of the role of neighbourhood working and the new neighbourhoods strategy was to improve both the communications and engagement with residents; connecting and shaping Council services at a neighbourhood level.
Each ward had a ward plan that captured locally identified priorities and the activities and projects that would be reported back to Council would illustrate just some of the ways as to how those priorities were being tackled and, therefore, relevant to those particular communities. These were on the Council’s website and if they were not factual or robust then the local residents involved would certainly be challenging their accuracy.
At each Council meeting from now on Councillors from three different wards would report back on the work they were undertaking with their local residents, community groups and partner organisations.
In a supplementary question Mr. Sylvester referred to the potential excellent neighbourhood working across the borough which was far better than the work in the previous Area Assemblies. In Scrutiny many of the potential problems were identified regarding devolved budgets and cross area working. There were good examples of where it was working well and Wingfield had been identified as incredibly good with Councillors from different parties working together. There were some issues with some of the Ward Plans. The one for Silverwood Ward indicated that Councillors would attend Thrybergh Parish Council as part of the consultation, but only Councillor Napper had attended. Looking at the Ward Plan for East Herringthorpe no consultation had taken place other than residents complaining. Mr. Sylvester, therefore, asked if there could be anything wrote in where the Ward Plans could be challenged or questioned through scrutiny for any comments or recommended change.
Councillor Watson confirmed residents could telephone, email or attend a surgery with their Ward Councillor and he was aware that Improving Places Select Commission would monitor the Strategy.
Today was the first attempt at the Ward Plans being presented to Council and feedback was welcome on how things could be done better. He hoped that next year’s Annual Report that would be presented to Improving Places would prove to be an excellent neighbourhood working strategy.