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Agenda item

MEMBERS' QUESTIONS TO CABINET MEMBERS AND CHAIRMEN

 

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

Minutes:

(1)  Councillor Carter asked what progress has been made with installing the twenty-one new CCTV cameras agreed for use by South Yorkshire Police?

 

Councillor Hoddinott was unsure about the reference to South Yorkshire Police, but confirmed the Council did allocate additional capital funding this year to purchase CCTV equipment for the Borough, with one camera dedicated to each ward and some had already been installed.

 

In a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked how many of the twenty-one have already been installed in their locations.

 

Councillor Hoddinott confirmed four were installed and five were about to be installed.  Twelve wards were yet to formally agree where they wanted to put them.

 

(2)  Councillor B. Cutts asked what numbers of foreign nationals have registered in Rotherham last year?

 

The Leader confirmed he would provide this in writing to Councillor Cutts so the detail could be clearly seen, but thenumbers of National Insurance registrations for foreign nationals totalled 463.  The full breakdown was:-

 

 

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

TOTAL

Bulgaria

 

18

30

39

25

0

112

Czech Republic

31

43

61

27

21

15

198

Eritrea

5

 

15

16

14

6

56

Italy

12

15

18

24

29

11

109

Lithuania

40

27

38

45

51

30

231

Pakistan

56

26

47

55

39

44

267

Poland

134

106

132

97

62

42

573

Romania

9

131

206

279

190

72

887

Slovakia

131

137

76

55

52

29

480

Spain

9

16

31

30

18

10

114

Others

236

208

238

274

223

204

1.383

TOTAL

663

727

892

941

724

463

4,410

 

(3)  Councillor Carter asked how much more did it cost to have an out of hours burial in Rotherham compared to Sheffield?

 

Councillor Hoddinott confirmed it was difficult to compare as Rotherham offered exclusive right of burial for one hundred years and Sheffield offered ninety years.  Even with this difference Rotherham was nearly £200 cheaper.

 

(4)  Councillor Carter asked what discussions had the Cabinet Member had with the Red Box Project and what were the outcomes regarding introducing free sanitary wear in secondary schools?

 

Councillor Watson confirmed this was one of the rare occasions where he and Councillor Carter were in agreement on where this should go.  He explained the Red Box project was a voluntary charity that provided sanitary protection for girls in school.  All schools have a small budget for girls who needed help during the day where they could be given products.  The idea behind the Red Box Project was for families that were so financially challenged to be given a full week’s worth of products and be able to go to school rather than having to choose between food and heating and sanitary protection for their daughters.  The Red Box Project was a voluntary charity with no paid staff.

 

Councillor Watson had met with all the Secondary School Head Teachers who were keen to have this project in their schools.  The second step from this was the setting up a meeting with the officer that covered the South Yorkshire area for the Red Box Project and finding a convenience slot in her diary.

 

Councillor Watson had previously extended an invitation to Councillor Carter to be formally part of this meeting and would advise him of the date and time of the meeting accordingly.

 

In a supplementary question Councillor Carter welcomed the progress, but asked if consideration had been given as to what could be done in Council buildings such as libraries and Council offices with similar provision.

 

Councillor Watson confirmed this had not been considered, but was happy to take this forward.

 

(5)  Councillor Cowles asked was the proposed extension of a PSPO to cover Eastwood a clear indication that both the Eastwood Deal and Selective Licensing have failed to deliver on much of their intended benefits?

 

Councillor Hoddinott disagreed, but pointed out this was simply an indication that every tool in the box would be used to improve the quality of life for residents in those areas.

 

In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles pointed out most reasonable people had read the last rites over the Eastwood Deal a long time ago, although Selective Licensing had had some effect on some properties it was not giving any power that the Council did not already have.  It simply transfered the costs in the service to landlords and had not improved the environment the environment one iota.  Whilst he applauded any initiative that that gave more power he reminded Councillor Hoddinott that previously at an Area Assembly meeting she had said it would take a couple of years to sort out the problems.   Only former Councillor Dodson said you were completely wrong.  He dismissed your approach starting it had all been tried before and in view of the recent statement from Mr. Goy of CLP it was suggested that it would take ten  years in order to clean up Eastwood effectively.

 

Councillor Cowles, therefore, asked did the Cabinet Member accept that she was hopelessly wrong.

 

Councillor Hoddinott disagreed.  These methods had not been tried before. The voluntary schemes had not worked and she found it incredible that Councillor Cowles was saying there had been no improvements.  It was right that landlords were challenged in that area and it was found that 90% of the private properties did not comply with the minimum legal standards.   There have been huge improvements in the private properties in that area it was correct that landlords were responsible for the living conditions of their tenants.

 

Also the PSPO had not been tried before.  The Council were willing to try new things in the area to improve it.  There have been improvements over the last couple of years and work would continue to take place with local Councillors who were working really hard to improve the area.

 

(6)  Councillor Cowles referred to NDRR, Non Domestic Rate Relief, the 80% mandatory relief awarded to charities occupying buildings and asked what processes, procedures and scrutiny was applied by RMBC to ensure that best use was made of both public and charity funding, or was it simply a tick box exercise on application?

 

Councillor Alam confirmed those charities seeking relief were required to complete an application form and where the Council was satisfied that the charity was in occupation it could not refuse to award relief because it considered that the use was insufficient or not making best use of the property.

 

An annual review process was carried out with a further application and appropriate checks and where the Business Rates Team were not satisfied that the charity was still entitled to the relief it would be cancelled.  

 

In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked where buildings were unoccupied who scrutinised them, how often a check was made, what assurance was asked for with the charity to reveal its use of space, how was it determined that they met the requirements and where possible reduce the number of buildings in use to ensure the best use for both the taxpayer and charity funds.

 

Councillor Alam again pointed out that there was no legal obligations to check what buildings were being used for as long as the property was wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes.

 

(7)  Councillor Mallinder asked the Cabinet Member to update her on the bin roll out and whether any positive changes to recycling have been seen yet?

 

Councillor Hoddinott confirmed the Waste Services was in the second phase of this implementation following the first phase before Christmas where people switched to the green bins for the paper and card collected at the kerbside.  Residents and staff were thanked for working through the huge change and with the move to increased recycling rates 3,000 new green bins have been issued for people to recycle.  The service were half way through the roll out of the pink bins and whilst still early stages the amount of general waste had been reduced by about 15%.

 

In a supplementary question Councillor Mallinder asked if an update could be provided at the end of the phases to see how they were progressing.

 

Councillor Hoddinott confirmed there was a commitment to go back Scrutiny for an evaluation. The changes were big and hoped to be fully rolled out by the end of March.  There was a continuing conversation about how recycling was increased and how it was made easier for people to use.

 

(8)  Councillor Cowles asked what was the current total of Non Domestic Rate Relief awarded in the Rotherham borough at the current time and how many buildings were occupied under such arrangements?

 

Councillor Alam confirmed as at 31st January, 2019 the total of all Non Domestic Rates Relief, including mandatory charity relief, awarded for the 2018/19 financial year was £15,273,163.

 

There were 4,991 properties which have received relief during the 2018/19 financial year.

 

(9)  Councillor Cusworth asked could the Cabinet Member for Waste please give an update on the early impact of recent changes to waste collection?

 

The question had already been answered as part of Question 7, but in a supplementary question Councillor Cusworth went on to ask the Cabinet Member if she could advise her how this these changes have been received by the public of Rotherham in the form of sort of compliments and to check how well the changes have been received in Swinton so this was echoed throughout the borough.

 

Councillor Hoddinott confirmed to Councillor Cusworth, as a vocal advocate for Swinton, that Swinton was in the middle of getting the pink bins with the final drop off being next Monday.  A drop in event was held at Swinton at the start of this change and it was generally well received.  The early signs were good in that most people were managing to work their way around the system and were seeing the impact. 

 

There were some minimal compliments and complaints coming through and normally about individual issues.  The service was working really hard to resolve them.  If, however, there were residents or areas that were struggling with the changes door-to-door engagement was available if anybody was struggling with the new system.

 

(10)  Councillor Cowles asked was there any grant funding this year, if so, what was the total amount donated?

 

Councillor Alam explained the Council had paid out £562k in grant payments, to date, in 2018/19 allocated as follows:-

 

·             £0.187m to Voluntary Action Rotherham (VAR) which provided infrastructure and support services to voluntary and community organisations in Rotherham this being part of a three-year service level agreement which commenced on 1st April, 2018 (The total annual agreement being £0.203m)

  

·             £0.240m to Citizens Advice Bureau, this being part of a three-year service level agreement which commenced on 1st April, 2018. This being the full annual amount of the agreement.

 

·             £1k to a local business from the Rotherham Economic Regeneration Fund.

 

·             In addition to the grants payments referred to previously, there were a number of social fund payments made totaling £0.076m. This included payments to Fareshare – Food in Crisis, VAR and Laser Credit. In setting the budget for 2018/19, Council agreed to fund these costs from the social care fund reserve.

 

Furthermore, a total of £0.058m had been also been paid from the Community Leadership Fund.

 

In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked the Cabinet Member if he could be provided with the list so it could be scrutinised more closely, how people were aware of grants, the information circulated and how people knew they could apply.

 

Councillor Alam advised this was all part of the tender process and it was the Rotherham Partnership that promoted grants to community sector organisations.  The list of figures would be provided in writing to Councillor Cowles.

 

(11)  Councillor Carter asked about reports that plastic recycling was removed from proposals to change household waste collections, between working group proposals and consultation and why this was the case.

 

Councillor Hoddinott explained plastic recycling had always been done at Manvers and Councillor Carter was probably referring to was the kerbside of recycling plastic.  Discussions did take place and as part of the decision numerous options were considered resulting in proposals that were affordable within the budget in late 2017.  Following a period of public consultation the Government subsequently allowed Councils to raise the Council Tax which meant the service were able to respond to that really strong public feeling that they wanted recycling of kerbside plastics.  So what was said in private was very much what was said in public.

 

(12)  Councillor Cowles referred to the bus station refurbishment which had allowed a lot of the sheeting used in the process to get into the canal which looked a real mess. He, therefore, asked if it had not already been removed, could the Cabinet Member ensure the developers were alerted to this issue?

 

Councillor Lelliott confirmed following the report a site inspection was carried out on 22nd February, 2019 but nothing of significance was observed in the river. As the bus station refurbishment works were the responsibility of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive both they and the developer have been alerted to the issue Councillor Cowles had raised.  If there were any further problems she would ensure these were addressed.

 

(13)  Councillor Carter asked how was the plastic waste being recycled under the new kerbside collection scheme?

 

Councillor Hoddinott confirmed all details were provided at the Members’ Seminar.  The presentation detailed various slides and a further copy would be provided to Councillor Carter if he had misplaced it.

 

(14)  Councillor Carter asked when was the Council first aware of issues with care being provided at Rother Heights care home in Treeton and what steps did it take to address this?

 

Councillor Roche confirmed the service first became aware of the issues at Rother Heights following a compliance audit carried out by the Council in October 2018 as part of the ongoing effective care home monitoring service.

 

Since this date the Council had regularly audited the service against an agreed action and improvement plan, met on a regular basis with the senior management of the service and made it clear what the expectations were around delivering a safe and quality service.  Officers have liaised regularly with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) who continued to monitor and review and there was a further review meeting between officers and CQC on the 26th February, 2019. It was worth noting that the Council did not have any placements with this service and officers were liaising regularly with the other commissioning authorities to fulfil their obligations where they did have places at the home.

 

There had been two seminars last year and the service record relatively speaking across Yorkshire was good,  but even one home in a category that raised concerns was one too many.  If Councillor Carter had attended the seminar he would know the Council’s powers for private providers such as this one were extremely limited, but where there were concerns these would be raised with the CQC and clients moved where necessary.

 

In a supplementary question Councillor Carter was assured the Council did not have any users of that service there, but asked how long this was the case for.

 

Councillor Roche confirmed he would need to check this out and feedback in writing.

 

(15)  Councillor Carter referred to a company getting in touch with him about wanting to recycle some of the waste plastic collected at the kerbside by RMBC and turn it into street furniture and asked was the Council open to this suggestion?

 

Councillor Hoddinott was happy to have those conversations within tendering rules if the details could be passed on.

 

(16)  Councillor Cusworth asked could the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health tell her what the Council was doing to support residents with complex needs who may be struggling to maintain tenancies?

 

Councillor Roche explained that in recent years the Council’s Housing Service had invested significantly in support for residents who were struggling to maintain their tenancies.

 

Additional staff have been employed in the Housing Income Team to offer Tenancy Support. These officers provided advice and support to vulnerable Council tenants, so that they were able to sustain their tenancy. They helped the tenant claim welfare benefits and often make referrals to other agencies such as drug and alcohol services and or to mental ill health services where appropriate.

 

Housing also funded a Social Worker in the Early Help team and their role was to work closely with families at risk of homelessness, irrespective of tenure.       

 

The Council also had housing Related Support Funded Services aimed to:-

 

•       Develop an individual's capacity to live independently or sustain their capacity to do so.

•       Help to expand the tenancy choices for people. This included people in danger of becoming homeless.

•       Provide immediate refuge places for victims of domestic abuse.

 

The Council were also funding a Housing First Scheme, with partners from South Yorkshire Housing Association and Target Housing to help people who have chaotic lives and who have failed to engage with or were the least likely to benefit from other service interventions.

 

Rotherham’s Housing First pilot provided a home for twenty people who were homeless or sleeping rough in the Rotherham area. The scheme offered housing to people first, with no conditions around receiving support. Whilst there were no conditions for the customers receiving the accommodation the providers would always offer support, and persist with this offer even if were turned away at first.

 

Since April, 2018 when the pilot was launched twenty people with complex needs have been accommodated and there were fourteen on the waiting list.  Early indications were that this was a highly successful scheme making a real difference to the lives of people.

 

(17)  Councillor Walsh referred to Michael Gove announcing an intention to standardise domestic waste collection arrangements, introducing weekly food waste collections as part of the plan and asked would this work for Rotherham?

 

Councillor Hoddinott explained the service had been looking at the proposals that Michael Gove suggested and a lot of them did require new laws to be brought in.  However, given the Government's ability at the moment to deliver Brexit consideration was being given to emergency provisions to keep waste collected in the event of a no deal as there was no guarantee from Government at the moment that Rotherham could move waste out of the borough.

 

There were some good ideas in what was being suggested to make producers of plastic pay for the waste was really welcome and to support consumers to buy more sustainable products.  It could be of a concern to Rotherham if the proposal to standardise the bins and the waste collection arrangements and to introduce weekly food waste as this was likely to cost the Council substantially more.  Of concern could then be the Government passing down the responsibility to local authorities, but not providing the funding for any changes otherwise it would be an extra cost on local taxpayers.

 

In a supplementary question Councillor Walsh was aware of the ludicrous consequences that segregated food waste collection would have for Rotherham’s municipal neighbours over in Sheffield.  They used incineration, but at the moment food waste was in the general waste stream and that quite happily was taken to the incinerator.  With any changes they would have to have a segregated collection, pay extra money to do the segregated waste collection and then take it to back to the depot to mix back into the general waste in order to get it through the incinerator.

 

Rotherham was not in this situation, but it was likely other location authorities were going to have equally ludicrous arrangements and he asked was it not time for the Local Government Association to gang up on Mr. Gove and point out the issues.

 

Councillor Hoddinott acknowledged Councillor Walsh’s very important point, but highlighted that Rotherham already recycled a lot of waste at Manvers.  Like plastic, food waste was also extracted so would be in a similar situation where different waste was being collected.  A further bin for Rotherham’s residents could probably be a step too far.  However, a strong message should be sent to Michael Gove by taking part in this consultation and comments fed in about what should happen.

 

(18)  Councillor Carter asked did the Council require contracted providers such as care homes to pay their staff at least the Joseph Rowntree Living Wage?

 

Councillor Roche confirmed the Council did not and could not mandate that external care providers paid their staff the Joseph Rowntree Living Wage, despite Councillor Carter’s earlier comments.

 

The Council did take steps to encourage external providers to also be good employers and was keen to look at could be done to encourage this.  This included when commissioning looking to see pay rates, training, professional development and other aspects so the Council could make sure the external providers were providing the best they could for their staff.

 

 It was worth noting that currently Rotherham paid more than the Yorkshire average to care workers.

 

In a supplementary question Councillor Carter understood the minimum standard charter would be used for tendering contracts and would cover this so he asked was this not correct.

 

Councillor Roche reiterated the Council could not mandate what an external provider was going to pay their workers.

 

(19)  Councillor Cowlesasked could the Cabinet Member give assurance that the Police were on board with the PSPO and, therefore, patrols and out of hours cover were agreed between the two services so that it was then known very easily which service would be patrolling and when.

 

Councillor Hoddinott confirmed the Police were on board and joint patrols were already taking place.  It was important the services worked together with reduced resources and local Councillors have been out on evenings to observe some of the patrols taking place.

 

In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles pointed out that since this would take additional officer time he could not recall this initiative coming before scrutiny at the time of the budget review.  He, therefore asked was there a budget for this for this activity and if not how was it anticipated it would be paid for.

 

Councillor Hoddinott confirmed discussions had taken place at Scrutiny in terms of the current PSPO and also the future one which would still require a decision. Agreement had been made about going out to consultation and talking to partners, stakeholders and residents.

 

In terms of the PSPO, this was another tool that officers, during their normal working time, could use alongside the joint patrols with the Police in the Eastwood area.  One of the advantages meant fixed penalty notices could be issued on the spot rather than having to go through much of the lengthy statutory procedures.

 

(20)  Councillor Cusworth asked could the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health please tell her what the Council was doing to support people with physical and/or mental health conditions back into work?

 

Councillor Roche explained the Council’s in house service AD-PRO Employment Services’ aim was to enhance and harness skills and break down barriers to employment for adults with a learning or physical disability. AD-PRO provided a person centred training package for adults with disabilities who were preparing to move on to employment.  The Council were intending, as reported, extending the work of AD-PRO across the whole of Rotherham.

 

The total number of people who were accessing the various different types of employment support activity through this service was fifty-eight broken down as:-

 

·             Ten people were accessing voluntary opportunities (organisations include St Vincent’s, Salvation Army, RSPB, Barnardo’s).

 

·             Nineteen people were accessing work experience (organisations include RMBC, BA components, Costa, Poundland, Riverside Café, Mears, Lifewise).

 

·             Twenty-three people were accessing paid work (organisations/employers include dog walking, Premier Inn, Asda, RMBC, Partec, McDonalds, Broad Horizons).

 

·             Six people were paid by BA components.

 

In addition to the above the Council was also engaged in two initiatives first the Sheffield City Region’s “Working Win” health-led research.  This innovative research trial, one of only two such projects in the UK, had also been credited in the NHS’ Long-Term Plan, launched earlier this month.

 

Working Win aimed to find out whether a new type of support for people who were struggling with work due to health issues, was better than other services which were already on offer.

 

Funded by the NHS and the Government’s Work and Health Unit, the trial – which covered South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw - was one of two research projects that had the potential to change the way that services were delivered nationally.

 

So far 3,000 people have already registered as volunteers for this support programme, it was aiming to have a further 4,000 people registered across the project area. This project was very successful.

 

The second was the Finishers and Interiors Sector BuildBack Programme which helped job seekers who were serious about developing a career in drylining. The programme put them through two weeks’ college training in the skills and competencies required for installing drylining, followed by a two-week work placement on-site with a local employer.

 

The Council was pleased to be chosen for those two projects.

 

In a supplementary question Councillor Cusworth asked on the “Working Win” initiative how long was it set to run for in Rotherham and was it hoped this could be extended to run after the trial period.

 

Councillor Roche hoped it would be extended, but would not know until this had been evaluated.  Initially the project it had been successful and still had another year yet to run.

 

(21)  Councillor Cowles was becoming increasingly concerned at the uncontrolled percentage increase in precepts coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Fire Authority and also from Parish Councils. They were simply using residents as a milk cow so asked if anything could be done to limit their demands?

 

The Leader explained if a properly anti-austerity Government were elected to fund public services the precept would not need to be increased quite so much.

 

In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles explained there appeared to be no real democratic mandate for the precepts and when attending a Parish Council meeting they usually followed along the lines that it was only so much a week or a month.  It was Councillor Cowles’ view that Parish Councils hide behind the Local Authority because the precept was collected for them by RMBC on their behalf.

 

As a resident if he refused to pay the Parish Council precept his argument was no longer with the Parish Council, but with the Council because he would not have paid his full council tax.   If inflation was only running at two or three percent surely it was not justifiable for people to start raising their precepts by ten percent, fifteen, twenty or in some cases even thirty percent as an increase in the precept.  He, therefore, asked the Leader if the Council could  not take up this matter was Parish Councils.

 

The Leader pointed out Parish Councils were elected bodies and elected by their own residents who made their own decisions independently.  Whilst the Council may individually have a view about any decision that an individual Parish Council took it was important that their rights were respected.  If it was felt that the Parish Councillors were not making the right decisions then the election of Parish Councillors would need to be done in the same way as if people did not think Borough Councillors were making good decisions.   The Council set the budgets collectively, so it was not a matter for individuals,  but all together.