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. Thirlwall explained that at the September Council Meeting the Leader told him if he could show that a third party had authorised alterations to a Member’s ‘Register of Interests’ he would wish to know and would take appropriate action so asked why then had he been denied access to the information that could show if that was the case?
The Leader explained it was not appropriate for Members of the public to access any internal correspondence or emails between Members and officers as some information was of a sensitive nature and personal to the Member.
In a supplementary Mr. Thirlwall referred to the response he was given back in September when the Leader said he would refer any matters should it be believed forms had been altered. He made a telephone call and was told that those whose political party was changed from UKIP to Brexit had been contacted by email and told their Register of Interest forms must be updated before the Council meeting. He knew this was not correct as one Councillor openly admitted to not using email.
On this basis a Freedom of Information request was submitted which was denied. A further review was requested indicating that redacted or anonymised information was acceptable. This request was denied and had since been forwarded for consideration by the Information Commissioner.
Mr. Thirlwall asked the Leader, therefore, if he would provide the information rather than the matter being delayed even further when it was hoped the Information Commissioner would direct the Council to release the documentation that had been requested.
The Leader advised the proper procedure was being followed and the precedent of one political leader trying to access emails of another political leader was not appropriate and was wary of becoming involved. He was confident officers had acted appropriately and followed due process.
(2) Mr. L. Harron referred to October, 2017 when two adult survivors of CSE addressed a petition in a Council meeting asking for a meaningful consultation about their needs. About a year later a decision was made to use an external organisation to advise about consulting with survivors and a public consultation was promised and he asked why had this not taken place and when would it take place?
The Leader had discussed this previously and agreed that this needed to be moved on quickly. He explained that as part of the consideration for a new refreshed specification for support for victims and survivors of CSE, the Council engaged an external consultant to undertake a full Needs Analysis in relation to supporting adult victims and survivors. The consultation with victims and survivors included dialogue and discussion with stakeholders including those who were working with commissioned providers and other support groups. This portion of the Needs Analysis had now concluded.
There would be a further opportunity for the public to engage in consultation via an online questionnaire and this would be developed using the key findings and other feedback. It was planned to undertake this consultation through March, 2020 for thirty days to assist in the further development of the new specification. The Council (or its partners) would then go to open tender from May, 2020 with the intention of awarding a new contract before the end of August, 2020, with a start date before the end of the year.
It was anticipated the next stage of the engagement would be undertaken sooner, but, due to a key individual having a serious illness, this had been delayed. However, this would now be progressed.
It had also been the intention of the external consultant to plan an art exhibition. This innovative proposal would provide a further opportunity to capture public views and share the voice of victims and survivors. However, plans were currently delayed by illness, but the Council was hopeful that it would be able to progress later in the year. This would be advised as soon as was practically possible.
In a supplementary question Mr. Harron confirmed he had been to Cabinet twice where the Leader had agreed with him about the need for consultation, but people did not appreciate the message this sent to adult survivors with all the delays.
He asked about the public consultation and agreed with the Leader that Members of the Chamber needed to understand a lot of adult victims and survivors who would not come forward where they could be identified. He acknowledged the bravery and courage of survivors that stood up and were prepared to speak to this Chamber. It was how the public consultation could reach the people who would not engage with the normal questionnaire preferring to be hidden away with the people they could trust. He asked the Leader, therefore, if could tell him more about that bit of the process and how it would be managed.
The Leader associated himself with the remarks about the bravery of adult survivors and victims who deserved to have their anonymity protected. This was why it had taken so long as it was important to get the process progressed and confirmed this would be an open process to allow individuals to come forward who were not necessarily engaged with services at the moment. It was the right thing to do as and when more detail was available he was more than happy to provide further information on the detail in writing.
(3) “T”, following the meeting with Shokat Lal (Assistant Chief Executive) on 21st August, 2018, meeting with the Leader of the Council on 29th November, 2018 and meetings with officers about Commissioning Services (with the promise of a monthly update), asked please could an update on exactly where the commissioning of service for adult survivors of CSE had reached at RMBC?
The Leader had touched on this in the question above, but confirmed a Needs Analysis for the commissioning of services for adult survivors of CSE had been completed and would be considered by the Improving Lives Select Commission in March, 2020. The Council were working with its partners, to agree the best options for re-commissioning.
It was planned to undertake this consultation through March, 2020 for thirty days to assist in the further development of the new specification. The Council (or its partners) would then go to open tender in May, 2020 with the intention of awarding a new contract before the end of August, 2020, with a start date before the end of the year.
It was anticipated the next stage of the engagement would have been undertaken sooner but unfortunately due to the individual having a serious illness this had been delayed, but it was not the right way of taking this forward.
In a supplementary question “T” explained she had completed some art work as part of the initial engagement, and had been fully involved in the process making her relive the trauma and abuse she had suffered without getting any answers. She asked if the artwork could be returned as the Council had provided little in return for the trauma she had encountered.
The Leader fully appreciated how difficult engagement had been and confirmed he would investigate further and come back directly.
(4) Mr. P. Cawkwell was unable to attend the Council Meeting so would receive a response to his question in writing.
(5) Elizabeth was unable to attend the Council Meeting so would receive a response to his question in writing.
(6) Mr. Smith was unable to attend the Council Meeting so would receive a response to his question in writing.
(7) Mr. S. Hall asked did the Council’s Environmental Health team prepare or keep data on health trends within specific areas of Rotherham which related to significant health issues and if so what kind of data and over what period of time?
Councillor Roche, Cabinet for Adult Social Care and Health, explained the Council’s Environmental Health team did not prepare or keep data on health trends within specific areas of Rotherham, however, the Council’s Public Health team currently oversaw the ongoing production and development of the Rotherham Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) supported by the Policy, Performance and Improvement team.
The Joint Strategic Needs Assessment was a collaborative public online collation of data from a wide range of partners across the borough, including the NHS and voluntary sector, and was overseen by a steering group reporting up to the Health and Wellbeing Board and regularly updated.
This included not only the data on health care services and lifestyle behaviours, such as smoking, physical activity and alcohol, but also on the wider determinants that influenced health, such as transport, housing, education, social care and community safety. Data included comparisons of Rotherham to other similar local authority areas or national averages, and some data available at Ward level.
The JSNA was currently being refreshed and full access for partners and the public would be from 20th February, 2020.
In a supplementary question Mr. Hall asked if in 1994 when a Public Health enquiry was held into Watson’s Tip at Kimberworth and metal samples were taken had the Council conducted any research into cancer deaths in that area and if there was what were the findings.
Councillor Roche explained the Council did not hold any clinical information. However, having spoken to a representative of the CCG only this morning about today’s question, the representative would be keen to receive any data the member of the public may have. This information was held by the CCG and all confirmed cancer diagnoses were held on the Cancer Registries Cancer and did not relate to a single diagnosis as there were many different types with different causes; some with no connection to environmental exposure.
The number of cancers in any locality would be small, with a lot of variation from year to year. There was also a lot of randomness in disease origin and clusters of disease frequently occurred by chance in different pockets of the country. Due to this it would be difficult to prove an association with any environmental site and it would require a detailed piece of research into a particular suspected cause (e.g. a large case control study which would involve retrospective look at medical records, matching cancer cases and non-cases and looking at their exposure by proximity to a tip over a defined period of time).
Carrying out this type of study would require a full research proposal and support from the CCG and quite possibly a University. It would also require access to patient records which would be the remit of the NHS.
(8) Mr. W. Burrell had been told that RMBC had conducted a survey of the turning circle for HGVs into and out of the Millmoor Juniors access road in 2017 so asked if the Cabinet Member could please explain what the findings were?
Councillor Hoddinott, Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety, confirmed an assessment of the suitability of access into Grange Landfill site off Droppingwell Road was undertaken in July, 2016. This involved a visit to the site and the use of a computer tracking model to assess the access. This assessment concluded that vehicles of the size and type that would be used on the site could access the site via the A629 with no issues. The site access to Droppingwell Road had adequate visibility and was suitably surfaced.
However, the Council was actively monitoring activity around the site to ensure that Grange Landfill Ltd. only use the agreed access route into their site. There was no agreement for Grange Landfill Ltd to use Council land as a turning circle.
Councillor Hoddinott thanked members of the public for contacting herself and providing evidence of Grange Landfill doing this when they should not be.
Following reports that Grange Landfill Ltd. had used Council land as a turning circle, the Council wrote to them in November, 2019 to remind them that they must stop doing so and to remind them that they must use the agreed route into the site.
Since then, further reports and observations had been received that Grange Landfill Ltd. have continued to use Council land as a turning circle. Given this, the Council would now be taking steps to prevent access to the unauthorised parts of its land through the placement of physical barriers. It was intended that the proposed barriers would be in place by mid-February, 2020.
The Council had written to Grange Landfill to inform them of this and to remind them once again that they have no permission to use anything other than the agreed access route.
However, it was pointed out that the Council was legally required to allow access to the landfill site by Grange Landfill Ltd.
In a supplementary question Mr. Burrell asked if the Council was aware that lorries were not using the A629, but coming from Sheffield up Droppingwell Road and using residential roads and the entrance to Grange Park Golf Club to turn re-approaching Droppingwell Road to turn into the site. This was without a banksman and in contrary to the highways recommendation in the 1994 enquiry entering and leaving the site by the entrance could cause significant danger to other road users and was the cornerstone of the highways objection which was upheld by enquiry not to grant planning permission for this access so would the Council look into stopping this practice before someone was killed.
Councillor Hoddinott was not aware of those specific incidents, but was more than happy to take away this information and investigate. She asked if members of the public had any evidence to share this with her and this would be looked at and she would come back. She emphasized again the Council was legally required to allow access to the landfill site by Grange Landfill Ltd. It would fall on the Council to make any alterations to make it safer.
(9) Ms. L. Silcock explained that over most weekends, Millmoor Juniors see 300 to 400 people attending their home games including many children. The car parks and access road were usually full of 150 plus cars, who all have a right of access. She asked when Grange Landfill start tipping they would also want access so how would this be possible?
Councillor Hoddinott, Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety, was concerned about the safety of the football club, but reiterated the Council was legally required to allow Grange Landfill Ltd. to access the landfill site.
The Council was concerned that Grange Landfill Ltd.’s operations did not affect the safety of people accessing Millmoor Juniors Football Club and this issue had been raised with them and their response was awaited and the Council was keen to hear how this would be managed.
The 1958 planning permission was historical and was being worked to. If an application was now submitted a full transport assessment would be required and any issues followed up by the Planning Department. The Council now found itself in a unique position that it did not have this protection and safeguards and a strong letter had been written to the Secretary of State asking for special consideration and setting out the concerns about health and safety.
In a supplementary question Ms. Silcock asked, considering the access was on Council land and the Council had a duty of care to people using their land to ensure they were covered by health and safety legislation, was the Council ensuring the access was safe for both ingress and egress from a landfill site policy and if not, why not.
Councillor Hoddinott confirmed responsibility and funding for the access fell to the Council for Grange Landfill Ltd. and to ensure this was safe. Grange Landfill Ltd. had been written to on how this would be managed, but the Council was still waiting on their response.
(10) Mrs. J. Heron referred to how in 1958 the Council issued a planning permission for Watson’s Tip, detailing landform to be reinstated after its closure and the amount of land that could be taken out of agricultural use at any one time. She asked could the Leader confirm if Grange Landfill Ltd. have been written to, to ask how they would achieve compliance?
Councillor Hoddinott, Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety, explained planning permission for the tip was granted for two phases. Phase One had been completed.
Any new tipping on Phase Two would be required to comply with the conditions attached to it which stated that no more than five acres of land shall be out of cultivation at any one period and that the finished surface of Phase Two shall be levelled off. The permission had some detail about what should happen after the tipping, but this was minimal unlike what would be included in a modern application of today. It was the operator’s responsibility to ensure compliance with the conditions.
If there were any breaches of the planning permission during Phase Two the Council would investigate and take necessary action. A visit had been made and no breaches had been observed as yet, but if there were any alleged breaches with reported evidence then the Council would look into this.
In a supplementary question Mrs. Heron referred to the Council agreeing in 1997 that it was in the public interest to allow MHH to relieve the over tipping of Phase One of the site. At the last Council meeting the Cabinet Member confirmed this did not mean the same agreement applied to Phase Two of the planning permission and that permission stated the site’s reinstated surface had to be level. It was not believed this could be achieved with both phases being at different levels.
The same permission also indicated only five acres could be removed from agricultural use in total, yet the topsoil from an adjoining field had already been removed, which did not form part of this permission. However, according to the Planning Department this formed part of permitted development rights as part of tip site works so should be considered as part of the five acres. Unless the Council issued a retrospective variation to the permission these conditions could not be complied with so why were these questions not asked prior to the works starting.
Councillor Hoddinott, Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety, confirmed the 1994 inquiry did regularise Phase One. However, in terms of the adjoining land the question had been asked and this did not affect the permission. This had been raised with the Planning Department. With regards to the differences with land levels, the Cabinet Member would make certain of the detail and confirm this to the member of the public in writing.