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. “T” asked the Leader of the Council “What training has the Leader of RMBC had in improving his understanding of the impact of CSE on victims and survivors after they have been through a trial, what type of training did he have, when did he have it, how long did it last for, and exactly what did it cover?”.
In response the Leader advised that he had not received any training on this specific aspect of CSE.
As a supplementary question “T” asked what the Leader’s opinion was of the online training provided for Council staff on CSE. The Leader in response advised that the training had been created for the Council by professionals in the field of CSE, but that if “T” had any feedback on the training that she would like to provide, then that feedback would be welcomed.
2. Mr Peter Thirlwall asked the Chair of the Standards and Ethics Committee “Does the Chair of the Standards and Ethics Committee believe a dangerous precedent has been set by allowing Councillor Cutts not to face any sanctions for the cavalier attitude he has taken towards completing his 'Register of Interests' and ignoring the many reminders he has been given? What sort of message does the Chair believe that sends to other Councillors?”.
In response the Chair of the Standards and Ethics Committee in advised that she didn’t believe that the way in which this case had been dealt with set any precedent, as each case was dealt with on its own merits. The Chair reiterated what she had said at the previous meeting of Council, that it was not appropriate to discuss individual cases in the Council meeting (Minute No.287), and noted that Mr Thirlwall had been previously assured in writing that the matter had been fully and properly addressed. The Chair also noted that members were regularly reminded and would continue to be reminded about the requirement for their Register of Interests to be kept up to date.
As a supplementary question Mr Thirlwall stated that he was not satisfied with the response that he had received from the Chair and noted that his complaint had only been verbally reported at, and not discussed fully at a meeting of the Standards and Ethics Committee. Mr Thirlwall stated that no sanction had been applied to Councillor Brian Cutts for his conduct on this matter and that in his opinion Councillor Cutts should no longer be a Councillor and asked whether the Chair agreed.
The Chair advised that she did not agree and referred Mr Thirlwall to her original response. The Chair noted that Mr Thirlwall was fully aware that Standards Committees had, due the provisions of the Localism Act 2011 very limited ability to apply sanctions on Councillors. The Chair referred to the Government consultation that had taken place on Standards matters and sanctions in local authorities and encouraged Mr Thirlwall to lobby the area’s MP’s to put pressure on the Government to move the required legislation to give more power to Standards Committees in the future.
3. Ms Sadie Healey asked the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health “In September 2018 I asked a question after you stated the number of people wanting to attend day centres had gone right down. In reply you said there were 84 people attending the Oaks. Now it's closed how many of those 84 have gone on to attend another day centre?”.
In response the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health advised that of that of original group, the number of people currently attending another day centre was nine, and that all of those nine service users had been assessed as having complex needs. The Cabinet Member reaffirmed that the support given to any individual was based upon their needs and aspirations, and that it had never been the Council’s intention that anyone would be unable to access day care. The Cabinet Member advised that the other 75 service users had gone on to enjoy a wide range of other activities, based on their reassessments. The Cabinet Member acknowledged that any changes to provision could be worrying for service users and their families, but noted that many of the people who had now made the transition would never choose to go back, but for those people who did need day care, the council would continue to be a direct provider.
As a supplementary question Ms Healey asked that as unlike the Oaks Centre the Addison Centre was in good structural condition, could it be kept open? In response the Cabinet Member advised that as the costs involved in keeping the centre open had not been the main consideration in the decision to close the centre, that the planned closure of the centre would go ahead.
4. Mr Liam Harron asked the Leader of the Council “When answering a question from a member of the public in Council meetings, sometimes you appear to read out from a written prepared statement. How do you ensure that the information given to you by officers is true?”.
In response the Leader stated that the notes he used when answering questions were his own notes, but that these were informed by Strategic Directors. The Leader advised that if at any point doubt arose as to the accuracy of information provided by officers then formal processes were in place that members of public could access.
As a supplementary question Mr Harron asked why he had not had replies to correspondence that he had sent to the Leader on two separate occasions over a period of two years and asked for an explanation of why 1,400 copies of the book “Voices of hope, voices of despair” had been returned to him. The Leader in response stated that he was in regular communication with Mr Harron and was sure that the correspondence referred to had been replied to, but that he would take steps to check that responses had indeed been sent. The Leader advised that the publication referred to had been returned as following expert advice from the Commissioners who were running the Council at the time, the publication was not deemed suitable for the use requested. The Leader emphasised that the decision had not been made by him but had been on the advice of experts.
5. Mrs Mavis Reed asked the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health “A cynic might view the postponement of the closure of the Addison Centre until March 2021 as an attempt to avoid a backlash at the ballot box in May. What is the reason for the delay?”.
In response the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care in advised that he appreciated Mrs Reed’s concerns about the changes that were being made, but reaffirmed that until all the reassessments and reviews had taken place, and alternative solutions found for service users, then the Addison Centre would remain open. The Cabinet Member advised that whilst the original outlined timetable had suggested Addison would close at the end of March 2020, this was now no longer practical, and that the needs of service users would come first. The Cabinet Member added that every assessment and outcome would be based on the individual needs and it would therefore be difficult to predict an actual closure date. The Cabinet Member stated that he had never set or spoken of a date of March 2021 for the closure of the centre.
As a supplementary question Mrs Reed stated that she and others were campaigning to keep the centre open and that as the local MP, Alexander Stafford also opposed the closure, asked why a Labour Council was implementing Tory cuts impacting on the borough’s most vulnerable residents. The Cabinet Member in response reaffirmed that it was the Council’s intention to support services users by giving each individual user the best possible day based on their individual needs and advised that carers and service users would be kept fully updated on all proposed changes. The Cabinet Member noted that the closure of The Oaks Centre had enabled excellent outcomes for the service users involved, who were in many cases were now receiving a better service than they had before.
6. Mr Robin Symonds asked the Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Children's Services and Neighbourhood Working “I welcome the good news story that RMBC will provide local children’s homes for local children. Is this an acknowledgement that the decision taken in 2016 to close 2 homes to (as you put it) help the Council to meet the aspirations of children in care was a mistake?”.
In response the Deputy Leader noted that decision made to close Rotherham’s children’s homes in 2016 was taken appropriately in the context of the quality of the provision at that time in that Ofsted had found two of Rotherham’s children’s homes inadequate and the others not fit for purpose. The Deputy Leader advised that as circumstances had changed significantly, and that as the new residential provision would operate within a context of significantly improved social work practice at Rotherham that had been judged in January 2018 by Ofsted as Good, that the decision taken in 2016 to close the homes had been the right one.
As a supplementary question Mr Symonds asked why the Council should be believed about its approach to the closure of day centres when it got the decision wrong regarding the closure of children’s homes in 2016. In response the Deputy Leader stated that the decision to close the homes in 2016 had been the right decision, and referring to the answer previously given by the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health as to why the day centres were closing advised that that was the right decision at the current time.
7. Mr Mitchell Edwards was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that his question “Rotherham was recently voted the fifth worst place to live in the UK, given this cataclysmic failure to make our town a success will RMBC put a plan in place to address the issue? If not, will they ask the Chuckle Brothers to take over administration of the Borough?” would receive a written response.
8. Mr Marcus Wheatcroft was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that his question “Did Rotherham Council ever stop a 20-minute film called "My Dangerous Loverboy" which told the story of child sexual exploitation from being shown in schools and other locations to raise awareness around CSE? If it’s good enough for the Atlantic Film Festival in Canada in 2009 then its good enough for Rotherham” would receive a written response.
9. “Elizabeth” was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that her question “The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse was formed in November 2018. On 11.2.20 Sarah Champion published her report looking at whether adult survivors of child sexual abuse have access to support services and the criminal justice system. Has the Leader read it? From what he has read, how does the report apply to RMBC?” would receive a written response.
10. Mr John Smith was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that his question “My daughter was exploited and abused as a child in Rotherham. My daughter and my family have been helped enormously at Swinton Lock. Since the Jay Report, lies have been told about the Voices publication and Swinton Lock has been under attack for more than three years. Is this why only a minority of victims have come forward?” would receive a written response.
11. Mrs Charlotte Carter was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that her question asked the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy “Brinsworth residents feel cut off since the 208 bus replaced the previous bus service that stopped at Meadowhall Interchange. Will the council lobby the bus providers to reintroduce this vital service for residents?” would receive a written response.
12. Mr Ged Dempsey was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that his question “Do you honestly believe it is appropriate for Cllrs Who were aware of CSE abuse who attended seminar and covered it up for years to be still a councillor, to re-stand as a candidate or to be considered as a future Mayor of Rotherham? And not to be held accountable for their failures by facing prosecution? Not fit for purpose” would receive a written response.
13. Mr Martin Shepherd was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that his question “A FOI response stated that Jean Imray was paid three days pay to attend the RMB Council meeting on 6th September 2017, more than two years after she completed her report about Children A to O in Professor Jay’s Report. How much was the three days pay and what was the total cost to RMBC of Jean Imray’s Report?” would receive a written response.
14. Ms Imelda Delwar was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that her question “How is RMBC monitoring the outcomes for adult survivors who are receiving a service from specialist CSE providers in Rotherham?” would receive a written response.
15. Mr Andy Graydon was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that his question “What was the total cost of training about Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) in the financial year 2018-19, what is the estimated total cost for the financial year 2019-20 and how many employees and elected members have had formal costed training over these two years?” would receive a written response.
16. Ms Margaret Edge was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that her question “How does Rotherham Council know which services are working for which survivors of CSE?” would receive a written response.
17. Ms Alicia Harrison was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that her question “What training has the Chief Executive of RMBC had in improving her understanding of the impact of CSE on victims and survivors after they have been through a trial, what type of training did she have, when did she have it, how long did it last for, and exactly what did it cover?” would receive a written response.
18. Ms Philomena Holland was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that her question “I have kept a close interest in RMBC for a few years and I am heart-broken at what I have observed from watching Council meeting webcasts. Does the Leader agree with me that victims and survivors are still being badly let down and what single action will he take to remedy so many mistakes before the Council elections in May?” would receive a written response.
19. Ms Katie Andrews was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that her question “Page 17 of the Report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (published by Sarah Champion MP) recommends that resources and time should be provided so that trauma-informed responses can be delivered to those exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences. How is the Council ensuring that trauma-informed responses can be delivered appropriately?” would receive a written response.
20. Mr Paddy Cawkwell was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that his question “What checks or balances exist to ensure that when a Member of the Cabinet gives a commitment to do something or provide information, that its followed through in a timely manner, especially when it relates to survivors of child sexual exploitation asking questions/for information, do you agree these issues require specific attention to ensure a swift resolution for all concerned?” would receive a written response.
21. Mrs Mary Harron was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that her question “What services are there in Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) for: 1 adult survivors of CSE; 2 the safeguarding of children: 3 the safeguarding of adults; and how do these three services relate to each other and work together in order to ensure the best possible outcomes for adult survivors of CSE?” would receive a written response.
22. Mr John Cape was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that his question “After Jean Imray produced her report about Children A to O in Professor Jay’s Report in March 2015, she was employed in a senior officer role in Children’s Services, initially for six months. What rate of pay was the position advertised for and what was the actual rate of pay?” would receive a written response.
23. Ms Marie Lear was unable to attend the Council Meeting, so it was advised by the Mayor that her question “Which charities based in Rotherham deliver training to a range of professionals outside Rotherham about how best to support those who have suffered from CSE and which charities based in Rotherham deliver training to employees of the Council and elected members?” would receive a written response.