To put questions, if any, to Cabinet Members and Chairmen (or their representatives) under Council Procedure Rules 11(1) and 11(3).
(1) Councillor Carter asked, since the last Council meeting, on how many occasions had the Council Leader met with the City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis both individually and alongside the other three South Yorkshire Local Authority Leaders?
The Leader confirmed the Combined Authority had not formally met since the last Council Meeting, but as one would appreciate conversations were ongoing on an informal basis regularly.
(2) Councillor Carter asked if meetings have taken place, what discussions have taken place about the awaited devolution deal proposed by the Government.
The Leader explained there was not a huge amount he could update the Chamber on other than what he had shared previously. Authorities continued to advocate the positions that they have and the Combined Authority continued to try to find ways of breaking the deadlock including seeking assurance from the Government that would allow for taking forward the positions represented. The Leader was not willing to speculate on what people may or may not do in the future.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter explained that the Elected Mayor of South Yorkshire had a casting vote in these discussions and he asked would the Leader be supportive of an approach giving the Mayor a time-limited period to come to an agreement say over the next three to six months and if not would he encourage and support the Mayor into using his casting vote in pushing the devolution deal forward.
The Leader pointed out that there was a need to be clear on what the Elected Mayor could and could not do and the process for adopting a devolution deal.
In order to adopt the deal it would need the Combined Authority to vote formally to adopt it and each of the constituent authorities which may then result in a situation where the Mayor may use his casting vote in the Combined Authority to adopt. However, this may still fall if any of the individual authorities were to veto it when it came before their Members.
There should be no apportioning of blame or placing responsibility on the Mayor for not adopting this. He had simply stepped into a situation that was created by Councils and Council Leaders and he was working hard to try and get the best out of a situation to draw down money that may be available under difficult circumstances.
The Leader did not wish to impose a deadline on the Mayor, but would continue to work very closely with him to try and find a solution.
(3) Councillor Carter referred to his understanding that Sheffield City Region would automatically have received £150m of funding from Government if it had an agreed devolution deal in place and asked what other funding sources had the region missed out on due to the failure to implement the devolution deal?
The Leader did not believe it was quite £150 million, but explained that had the 2015 devolution deal been implemented as originally planned, the City Region would have received £90 million for three years from its gainshare allocation and £5 million employment support from pilots helping people into work. In addition, the City Region would have the ability to retain additional business rates which was estimated to be worth about £2 million a year and could be as much as £6 million. So certainly, yes the Region would have received around £100 million.
The Sheffield City Region would have been on course for having already received three years funding and as part of this would have been given favourable status as part of the National Transforming Cities Fund of £1.7 billion. It was difficult to put a figure on quite what that would have provided, but it was sensible to speculate that it would have been in the tens of millions of pounds. As a ball park figure, South Yorkshire could have received something like a £150 million of additional investment over the last three years in jobs and the economy, which the region had gone without so far.
This was still a thirty year deal and it would seem sensible for the region to take this money now and move in that direction, whilst also ensuring that people's hands were not tied in terms of the policy objectives and wanting to be part of other potential deals in the future. This would be a practical way of bringing the money to South Yorkshire, helping people in work, strengthening the economy and also allowing local authorities to follow the policies that were set out.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked, given the failure of all four Labour Party Leaders to decide, as an aside did the Leader not think it incumbent or any reflection on the Local Authority Leaders in how they interacted with other Local Authority Leaders and how they tried to bring those together to form a consensus view.
The Leader believed the role was tough enough and would not appreciate it if others were telling him the best way of making decisions in Rotherham. He hoped, however, that the City Region could get to a position where all four Leaders and the Mayor would understand that it was in the best interests of South Yorkshire to draw that money down now, even if people wished to pursue other deals such as a one Yorkshire or something else in the future. He was clear that he did not want to tie anyone's hands in terms of where they would go in the future.
Indeed, if there was a great one Yorkshire deal in the future, Rotherham may wish to be part of it but for now, whilst that option was not on the table, the deal agreed in 2015 should be pursued in order to draw down that money in order to strengthen the economy with options kept open for the future.
(4) Councillor John Turner stated, that whilst shopping in town at Christmas, he became aware of the relative emptiness of All Saints’ Square. He then realised that the Christmas carols were not playing. He immediately went into church and found that the Council had stopped the funding of this function. Can you explain?
Councillor Allen confirmed that the Council had spoken to the Verger at the Minster who believed that many years ago a Council department used to fund a contractor to put speakers on the Minster to play music over a two week period. He indicated that this ceased in 2004 because the Minster roof/stonework had become too unsafe to continue and that this was still the case.
More recently the Council used to play Christmas Carols from the top of the Visitor Centre building in All Saints Square but in 2017 it became unsafe for the contractor to go onto the roof of the building and, therefore, carols had not been played over the festive period for the last two years. However, a day of Christmas music had been provided at the Celebration of Music event on Saturday 15th December, which had included performances of carols from the Liberty Church Choir and Thorpe Hesley Brass Band to bring some festive cheer to the town centre.
In a supplementary question Councillor Turner explained how when queuing in a shop and the subject of carols came up a forceful lady explained the Council did not want to offend British immigration and the feeling that British people in Rotherham were second class citizens. He asked did the Cabinet Member wish to comment.
Councillor Allen reconfirmed why the carols were not being played and this remained the case.
(5) Councillor Jepson referred to the Council purchasing, at considerable cost, six semi-detached two bedroom bungalows on an expensive private housing development at North Anston and he asked would it not make more sense to spend this money building additional properties as part of the Council’s own building programme and on Council-owned land?
Councillor Beck disagreed with Councillor Jepson and in terms of need explained there were 118, at the last count, of bungalows in the Anston Ward, which was significantly less than Dinnington and Wales, the two neighbouring Wards with very similar demographics. This was significantly less than the average in terms of bungalows in each Ward which was over 200 and was actually the third fewest of all Wards, with only two other Wards having fewer numbers of bungalows.
With over 6,000 people on the Council’s waiting list, which was rising, there was an absolute definite need in that area of the Borough for bungalows.
In terms of value for money, these bungalows have been bought for around 60% of the open market value, which was considered very good value for money.
When compared to what Councillor Jepson was proposing with an alternative around a delivery of bungalows or other housing and new housing as part of the wider programme, this actually compared very favourably against the baseline costs seen on those other sites, but this had to be balanced with value for money assessments treated on merit site by site.
In terms of that area of the Borough, there was a dearth of affordable housing in the Anston area. There had been considerable development of professional starter homes and executive style properties.
In terms of where the proposed bungalows were situated on the site, they were on the extremity of the site and not in the middle.
This development was part of the wider programme of housing growth. The Council had resolved to try and replace as many of homes lost through Right to Buy. In addition, the Strategic Acquisitions Programme, which, this was part of, had been going for years and had benefited many Wards where the Council had actually taken advantage of working with developers getting new quality build housing for the people on the waiting list.
It was because of these steps the Council was continuing to build more new Council homes since the 1970’s in Rotherham and as Cabinet Member Councillor Beck was proud of what was being achieved and he hoped Councillor Jepson was too.
In a supplementary question Councillor Jepson resented the remark from Councillor Beck, having lived in the area all his life. He could not understand why the Council was buying these bungalows when they were not exempt from the Right to Buy scheme. Anyone could move into them and within a short time could put in a bid to buy them. He presumed this was because they were built on a private development.
The Council had taken the Section 106 money, but it was still going to be costing around £600,000 for these properties, some of which may require adaptations, which could legitimately be subject to a Right to Buy bid in time rather than them becoming Council housing stock, which was then being depreciated.
Figures he had received from the Housing Department suggested that there was not that big a demand in the Anston and Woodsetts area than there might be across the Borough. He would go back to look at the figures and if they were at odds he would contact the Cabinet Member.
The Council had missed out on sites in Anston itself where bungalows could have been built. The site at Mill Lane was sold off to a housing association a few years ago and since that time six bungalows could have been accommodated on Council-owned land on an ex-garage site and asked why did we not do it then.
Councillor Beck acknowledged the Right to Buy Scheme, but pointed out that each year there were fewer and fewer homes for people in work and in dire straits that needed them. The Council was using its resources at its disposal to try to do the best to make sure it replaced as many of those it could.
The Cabinet report referred to the costs flow formula which actually was in place to protect Councils from the possibility of right to buy on new housing. Councillor Jepson may wish to familiarise himself with it and this was identified as a risk.
In terms of bungalows they were much less likely to be bought through the Right to Buy scheme simply because of the general age of the population that went into them.
Councillor Beck was proud of the work of the Housing Department within the Council. Staff worked strenuously to do all it could and cater for the 6,500 and rising people on the Council’s waiting list and this would continue.
(6) Councillor Carter asked how much free parking would there be on Forge Island when the new cinema was in place?
Councillor Lelliott confirmed that, in relation to Councillor Carter’s three questions regarding parking at Forge Island, the Council was currently working with developers and parking was under consideration and review as part of the detailed design of the scheme. When these details were known they would be shared and applications made for any relevant approvals such as planning permission.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter pointed out that it did not sound like there was a guarantee that there would be ample free parking for those using things like the cinema on Forge Island and asked was this correct?
Councillor Lelliott reiterated that the Council was currently working with developers and parking would be taken into consideration as part of the review. This would be considered across the board as part of the development. The Council did have a Parking Strategy Group which was spoken about at length at the recent seminar which Councillor Carter attended and also asked questions on.
(7) Councillor Carter asked how many parking spaces would there be at the proposed hotel on Forge Island?
Councillor Lelliott referred to the answer for question 6 and that the Council were working with developers and would share information when it was available.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter, having attended the seminar, referred to the hundred room hotel which may not have a hundred parking spaces, and asked if the Cabinet Member was happy with having a Council seminar, which was closed to the public with the cameras off during discussions, and asked if she agreed that the public should be made aware.
Councillor Lelliott referred to an earlier comment by Councillor Cowles about the value of cross-party working and with regards to talking about issues things behind closed doors Councillor Carter was in attendance at the seminar, did ask questions and received answers. Again everything would be taken into consideration with the developers as part of the proposals. It was the same with any development, the market would be tested and the proposal developed and it would be remiss not to do so.
(8) Councillor Carter asked, regarding the future completed Forge Island development, what were the proposed maximum stay times in the car park?
Councillor Lelliott again referred to the answers for questions 6 and 7 above.
(9) Councillor B. Cutts asked what were the circumstances that allowed the removal of a Councillor’s question without notice and by which Department?
The Leader confirmed the Council Procedure Rules 11(2)(a) and (b) made provision for questions from Members. A question would not be accepted if it:-
· was over 50 words in length,
· repeated or substantially repeated a questions asked at the previous three Council meetings, or
· related to an individual case.
Questions that were submitted to Democratic Services were reviewed by the Head of Democratic Services in conjunction with the Assistant Director of Legal Services before determining whether they met the criteria.
Where questions were not accepted, Members were contacted to advise them of the reason for non-acceptance of the question.
Where questions submitted fell within the above criteria, Democratic Services would liaise with the Member to assist them to amend the question so it fell within the scope of the Council procedure rules.
Questions that were not accepted or which could not be amended before the deadline could be referred to the Leader or Cabinet Members or others to respond outside of the meeting.
In a supplementary question Councillor Cutts pointed out the Cabinet was fully aware of the detail as he was refused the same question this time that he was refused at the last Council meeting. He was fully aware about the 50 word restriction, but his question this time was one word over the 50 with 51 words, but it was still not accepted. He asked, therefore, what was meant by a case.
The Leader pointed out he was not involved in the filtering of questions nor the receipt of them before the deadline. He only saw them once they had all been submitted and had been through the process.
In terms of a case this was where it related to an individual person's circumstances. This may be where a Member was trying to discuss the circumstances of an individual and that information may be private, may be subject to data protection rules, may not be available for Members to share in the public domain and indeed that individual may not want that information shared in the public domain. Then it would be inappropriate for those matters to be raised in this Chamber in this forum. It was not to say of course that a Member could not advocate on behalf of individual residents, but where there were individual circumstances that needed to be raised with the Cabinet Member or with a member of staff then this should be done, but not necessarily in a Council Meeting.
(10) Councillor Carter asked what and where would the improvements be to the cycle network connect?
Councillor Lelliott was unsure what Councillor Carter was referring to, but assumed this referred to the recent Council submission for the Transforming Cities Fund.
The Transforming Cities Fund was a regional fund co-ordinated by the Sheffield City Region Mayoral Combined Authority and each constituent Local Authority was asked to submit eligible schemes which could be delivered next year. In Rotherham, the plans were for a direct cycle route linking Greasbrough, Kimberworth and Wingfield to Rotherham town centre.
The Council had also set up a Cycle and Walking Group involving cross-party Members and Councillor Lelliott invited Councillor Carter to become a member as he may find the detail useful and informative.
(11) Councillor B. Cutts asked, with the present financial situation of INTERSERVE, how secure was the Rotherham bus station contract and did this include the “temporary” Forge Island bus station?
Councillor Lelliott confirmed that the refurbishment of the Interchange was the responsibility of the SYPTE, who were closely monitoring the situation at Interserve and had contingency plans in place should they go into administration.
These measures included a performance bond and staged payments linked to work completion. An intervention plan had also been developed if needed.
The issues reported by the press had improved since Christmas and the SYPTE were still working to a completion date of the next month or so.
Interserve were not involved in the Forge Island site and only involved with the temporary bus station funded by SYPTE.
(12) Councillor Cusworth asked if the Cabinet Member for Housing could update on the progress of existing new build Council properties and others in the pipeline.
Councillor Beck confirmed that the two main Council-led house building programmes currently underway and provided brief details of progress:-
217 homes were being built across seven sites and excellent progress was being made. The show home on the Braithwell Road, Maltby site opened in October 2017 and thirteen purchasers had placed deposits on homes, with the first one sold. Four properties on Gaitskell Close (also in Maltby) had been completed and were now fully let; all 217 homes would be completed during 2020.
The Council was also using Housing Revenue Account resources and Homes England grant funding to build 58 homes on the Bellows Road site in Rawmarsh (work has commenced), 44 homes on the former Rothwell Grange care home in Broom and 21 bungalows across various small sites. All sites would be completed during 2020.
Consideration was being given to lots of sites across the Borough, including the 300 garage sites which could potentially provide Council housing. Opportunities would also continue to be sought with developers and through the Strategic Acquisitions Fund to deliver new Council properties which could be added to the stock. Progress was going well and the Cabinet Member would continue to update Council as and when there was anything to report.
(13) Councillor Cusworth asked could the Cabinet Member say if the children and young people of Rotherham had had the opportunity to share their views regarding the Town Centre Masterplan.
Councillor Lelliott confirmed there was widespread consultation on the Town Centre Masterplan including presentations to the Looked after Children’s Council and the Child Centred Borough Working Group, who were supportive of the Plan while also making suggestions on what young people would wish to see included.
Grimm and Co. also ran a “Reimagining Rotherham Town Centre” event from the former Thornton’s shop unit in All Saints Square and the outcomes of this exercise were taken into account in the Masterplan where appropriate. The outcomes would be supplemented by findings from the annual children’s survey “Tell Us” which would be shared with developers, including Muse in respect of Forge Island.
The Council would ensure the ongoing engagement of young people as the plans for Forge Island were developed to ensure their voice was heard.
(14) Councillor Carter asked at what time did the allocated Park and Ride car parking spaces at Parkgate fill up on a working day.
Councillor Lelliott confirmed the Park and Ride was not provided by the Council.
SYPTE had provided information to confirm that they did not have data to confirm exactly what time the allocated car parking spaces were full, but was aware that this was early in the day consistent with commuting times.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked if the car park was full in a morning, what measures would the Council be taking to support the expansion of this facility?
Councillor Lelliott referred back to the original answer, but pointed out that the site was owned by SYPTE and that the car park was not under the Council’s jurisdiction. However, SYPTE have confirmed they are looking at alternative parking spaces.
The Cabinet Member wished to take this opportunity to say what a success the Tram Train had been in bringing people into Rotherham and whilst there may be a few problems with car parking it was marvellous that this service was running and well used.
(15) Councillor Carter asked how did Rotherham Council plan to incentivise bus companies to upgrade their rolling stock to more environmentally friendly vehicles?
Councillor Hoddinott confirmed the Council had asked the Government for financial support.
(16) Councillor Carter asked what was Rotherham Council doing to prepare for a potential “No Deal” Brexit?
The Leader confirmed the Council was engaging with local, regional and national partners, including Government departments, to ensure necessary contingency planning was undertaken for the possibility of a ‘no deal’ exit from the European Union. This involved a process of identifying any threats and risks, understanding any current mitigation and any mitigation that may be required in the future. He understood the Audit Committee had looked at this closely recently so he recommended that if Councillor Carter wished to become involved he be part of that Committee.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter, asked to be clear, what budgetary measures had been allocated in preparation for this.
The Leader confirmed no specific budget had been allocated, but given the number of possibilities at the moment he was unsure how much money could be put aside to try to cover all eventualities. Departments were looking on a case-by-case basis where the impact may be and putting plans in place around what action may be required.
The Leader was sure Councillor Carter would join him in hoping that politicians in Westminster could come to an agreement quickly to ensure that the U.K. had a managed exit from the European Union and ensure that public services were not disadvantaged through the course of that process.
(17) Councillor Carter asked what safety grounds were there to reduce the speed limits on the Parkway (A630) and question (18) what consultation had there been with the Police regarding potential reduction in the speed limit on the Parkway (A630)?
Councillor Lelliott explained that Councillor Carter had two questions regarding the Parkway and if agreeable was happy to answer both questions.
There were currently no safety concerns that would warrant a reduction in the speed limit on this road.
The governance for the Parkway Scheme was through a Project Board that included the Strategic Directors and quarterly returns were made to both the DfT and the City Region.
The Board had selected an option for the Parkway that included three lanes in each direction between the Catcliffe junction and Junction 33. This option would include narrower than standard lane width to reduce land taken, in conjunction with a 50 mph speed limit. This option would also provide benefits in relation to air pollution through reduced congestion and lower speeds.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter pointed out that what was being suggested there were no safety grounds and this was more to do with a move to ever more energy efficient and hopefully carbon neutral or less disablist emission vehicles over the next twenty years and asked how did this fit in with the strategy to reduce the speed limit when potentially there may not be emissions at the point of use of the vehicles in the future.
Councillor Lelliott explained it was because of congestion and moving traffic along and the move towards carbon neutral. This would take time even with business plans being submitted so this would all work alongside and complement each other.
(19) Councillor Carter asked now we know there was to be a Judicial Review into the planned closure into the Oaks Day Centre, did the Cabinet Member think he had handled this process well?
Cabinet Roche confirmed he could not legally comment on a Judicial Review whilst the proceedings were ongoing.
However, the Council would continue to work positively with all service users and carers. He was pleased to see people moving from Oaks to a different offer and enjoying this. He would continue to seek assurance as reviews were undertaken and different offers were put in place and the Service continued to prioritise engagement with service users, carers and families.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked if the Cabinet Member would agree that recommending the Centre for closure before completing annual assessments was a decision that was made in the wrong order.
Councillor Roche confirmed his response was limited, but if the reports were re-read it did refer to reports and plans it did refer to the assessment process.
(20) Councillor Carter asked did the Council support any plans for congestion charges within the Borough of Rotherham.
Councillor Hoddinott explained that the Council would not support congestion charges within Rotherham.
(21) Councillor Carter asked why did the Leader think the press department of Rotherham Council only sent out press releases telling residents about Parish Council By-elections that the Labour party had stood a candidate in. Surely he agrees with me that the Council should publicise all Parish Council By-elections equally?
The Leader wished to congratulate Tony Griffin, the first Labour Parish Councillor elected to Whiston Parish Council and a great representative of the community.
The reason for the press release for the bi-election was because the Parish Council had the authority to decide whether polling cards were issued to all residents eligible to vote and had decided that they did not want to do that and were not willing to fund that to happen.
The Council in its duty to publicise elections issued a politically neutral press release as expected.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked did the Leader not think that every bi-election should be publicised in a similar way to every election. Three bi-elections had taken place in the last year and to Councillor Carter’s knowledge only one had had a press release.
The Leader confirmed that he believed everyone should receive a polling card for every election in which they were entitled to vote.
The law cited that if Parish Councils were unwilling to fund polling card then the Borough Council should look at what other ways of making residents aware of the election and their ability to take part in the democratic process.
(22) Councillor Carter asked what plans did Rotherham Council have to make Worrygoose roundabout safer?
Councillor Lelliott confirmed that afeasibility study on the operation of Worrygoose Roundabout was programmed to be undertaken in the next financial year 2019/20 to assess the congestion issues at this location.
The feasibility study would include a data collection exercise for both traffic and accidents. It would then consider needs in respect of congestion and road safety and recommend outcomes and consider what funding sources may be available if proposals were identified.
(23) Councillor Carter asked when would the horrendous state of the road surface on the A6123 (Aldwarke Lane) be addressed?
Councillor Hoddinott confirmed initial works would be undertaken before the end of March, 2019 and further works by March, 2020.
(24) Councillor Carter asked what progress had been made in addressing the traffic issues at the M1 Junctions 33 and 34 between Sheffield and Rotherham, options which could include reopening Wood Lane?
Councillor Lelliott confirmed that, as part of the A630 Parkway scheme, improvements to Junction 33 were incorporated. With regards to Junction 34, this lay with Sheffield City Council’s jurisdiction. Traffic issues on the M1 itself between the two junctions was the responsibility of Highways England.
It was not currently proposed to re-open Wood Lane.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter understood there were traffic surveys and measures around those junctions including entrances to Wood Lane and off the Parkway and asked what were the results of that study.
Councillor Lelliott further explained that this was part of the Parkway widening scheme. All information was taken into consideration by the Board as and when appropriate.
(25) Councillor Carter asked what measures were Rotherham Council taking to address the poor air quality in areas like Brinsworth, Catcliffe, Whiston and Eastwood?
Councillor Hoddinott explained there was a whole package of measures that were considered as part of the Cabinet report in December. The Cabinet Member was happy to provide Councillor Carter with a copy of that report if he had not already read it.
(26) Councillor Carter asked when would the building works for the promised puffin crossing on Bawtry Road in Brinsworth be commenced.
Councillor Hoddinott explained the works were expected in May and took this opportunity to remind the Council that this was through extra investment voted for by the Council and if the Council had gone with what Councillor Carter had voted for, residents would still be waiting another three years for this.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked for confirmation that this was for the financial year 2019/20 and this would mean that this crossing in Brinsworth was first on the list as the first priority for 2019/20.
Councillor Hoddinott confirmed that she had sought assurances that this was a high priority and as Councillor Carter was aware some of the works has already been done.
(27) Councillor Carter asked what measures were the Council taking to upgrade their vehicle fleet to address air quality in our area.
Councillor Hoddinott explained the Council had taken a number of measures to look to making the fleet Euro 6 diesel engines and had recently purchased bin lorries that had electric bin lifts which reduced the emissions. If Councillor Carter had read the Cabinet report in December he would see the Council was also looking at more electric charging infrastructure as well.
In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked if the Council would look at things like the bin lorries and include carbon capture of the exhaust fumes and if they were not included would they not be reconsidered to be retrofitted.
Councillor Hoddinott confirmed she was not an expert in bin technology so would be happy for Councillor Carter to meet with officers about these solutions.