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Agenda item

PUBLIC QUESTIONS

 

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.

Minutes:

(1)  From Mr. L. Harron asked could the Leader of the Council give one or maybe two examples of situations where he thinks it would be appropriate for the Chief Executive of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) to apologise?

 

The Leader of the Council responded that in broad terms if there was an issue or failure in the administration of Council policies, he would expect responsibility to sit with the with Chief Executive. However, if there was failure arising from a policy decision taken by Members, then the Leader of the Council would ultimately be accountable.

 

As a supplementary question, Mr Harron asked if the Leader of the Council expected the Chief Executive to apologise for any aspect of an investigation which had taken three years to complete and explain what actions had been taken to establish how information from the investigation report had allegedly been leaked to the media. In response, the Leader of the Council restated that regret on the part of the authority at the length of the investigation, but reiterated that the issues under investigation had been complex. He did not consider that there was a need for the Chief Executive to apologise beyond the apology that had previously been issued in respect of the delay in concluding the investigation.

 

(2)  Mr. P. Cawkwell was unable to attend the meeting so would be provided with a written response to his question.

 

(3)  Mr. L. Wildblood was unable to attend the meeting so would be provided with a written response to his question.

 

(4)  Mrs. C. Meleady, M.B.E. was unable to attend the meeting so would be provided with a written response to her question.

 

(5)  Mr. J. Smith asked how many complaints had been made against services commissioned by RMBC to work with victims/survivors and families since the publication of the Jay Report in August 2014 and of those complaints how many were subject to an external independent investigation?

 

Councillor Read replied that there had been at least two complaints of this nature that he was specifically aware of, relating to two different providers. One of these – which was raised by more than one individual and covered a number of areas of concern – was investigated externally by independent investigators. He further indicated that it was not unusual for investigations to be conducted independently of the Council where it was more appropriate for this to happen.

 

As a supplementary question, Mr Smith enquired what governance had been put in place by the Council under the Care Act 2014 to protect and support individuals in respect of the aforementioned investigation process. In response, the Leader of the Council confirmed that he could not respond to the specific issues raised by Mr Smith in the meeting, but would be happy to correspond further in writing outside of the meeting.

 

(6)  Elizabeth stated that The Rotherham Advertiser had recently reported that “Rotherham Borough Council spent almost £60,000 on conducting a flawed three year Investigation into a charity supporting child sex abuse victims”. In addition to the almost £60,000 what were the additional indirect legal and other costs?

 

Councillor Read answered that indirect legal costs were not separately recorded and the final and total costs were likely to be over the £60k costs.

 

As a supplementary question, Elizabeth asked whether the former Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services had received a copy of the investigation report and whether the Leader of the Council understood the cost of the investigation in terms of the impact on survivors and individuals who worked at the charity in question.

 

In response, the Leader of the Council indicated that he did not believe that the former Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services was in receipt of the report. He further responded to indicated that the Council had a a responsibility to look at the issues raised by service users, as they deserved to have their questions answered and the authority ensured that this happened in that particular case.

 

(7)  Mr. P. Smith asked, because the permit conditions stipulate that Phase Two cannot be commenced until Phase One is completed, can you confirm what action the Council will be taking to ensure this condition is met, given that Phase One is un-engineered and over tipped making it impossible to complete.

 

Councillor Hoddinott replied that Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council had no regulatory powers in terms of the Environmental Permit for Grange Landfill. The Permit was issued by the Environment Agency and is enforced by them. The Council was, however, assessing all of the available options in respect of the site. The Council had written to the Environment Agency to seek clarification on a number of issues, including the practical steps they have taken to ensure the pre-commencement conditions of the permit have been met. In addition the Council, as Local Planning Authority, was reviewing the legal position in relation to the planning permission at Grange Landfill site. Until the review was completed, the Council would not be in a position to say what action might be taken.

 

(8)  Mr. P. Elwell asked what enforcement action are the Council going to take against the Environment Agency and Grange Landfill to stop them tipping against the existing tip in Phase One, given that the Environment Agency have confirmed that this is what will happen.

 

Councillor Hoddinott replied that, as previously stated, the Council was assessing all of the options that were open to us in terms of the site. She had met with a representative of the Environment Agency myself, along with Sarah Champion MP, to make clear the concerns collectively shared about the tip. However, the disclosure of any information relating to legal advice or potential action could prejudice the Council’s ability to take action in future. The Council was therefore not in a position to give any further information but would update residents when able to do so.    

 

(9)  Mr. D. Barlow asked why have the Council not proceeded with the legal action against the Environment Agency and Grange Landfill after seeking favourable independent legal advice suggesting they do so?

 

Councillor Hoddinott replied that, as previously stated, the Council was assessing all of the options in terms of the site. Any legal advice provided to the Council was under legal privilege and should not be shared publicly.

 

(10)  Mr. M. Marshall asked what powers do the Council’s Planning Department have in this matter, and what assurances can you give that these powers will prevent Grange Landfill doing as it pleases on site and when using the entrance to the site?

 

Councillor Lelliott reported that the Council, as Local Planning Authority, was reviewing the legal position in relation to the planning permission at Grange Landfill site. Until the review is complete, the Council was not in a position to say what action might be taken.