To put questions, if any, to Cabinet Members and Chairmen (or their representatives) under Council Procedure Rules 11(1) and 11(3).
1. Councillor Mallinder asked the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health “Can the Cabinet Member outline for me where we are in terms of providing respite care for people with disabilities?”.
In response the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care advised that he was pleased to note that Cabinet had agreed on 17 February to approve two brand new adapted detached properties at Conway Crescent, East Herringthorpe to become a residential respite home for up to eight people per day, and that this Council run provision would replace the existing facilities at Treefields and Quarryhill through a phased period from April 2020.
The Cabinet Member advised that the Conway Crescent properties would enable a respite offer to be made to a wider range of people who previously could not always use Council in-house respite facilities due to access issues. The Cabinet Member advised that it was proposed that one of the Conway Crescent properties would specialise in provision for people with Autism and the other would be for people with a Learning Disabilities who also had limited mobility, although all eight beds could be utilised by anyone with a Learning Disability and/or Autism requiring care and support.
The Cabinet Member also provided details of other respite options that would be available to service users.
There was no supplementary question.
2. Councillor Sansome asked the Leader of the Council “Do you agree that the comments made by Cllr Hague concerning a Britain First Member “he is an ok kinda guy” are divisive given the history of Britain First, unwanted, against the fabric of community cohesion and dividing our community? Whereas the Labour Group continue to build our communities despite years of austerity and countless visits by far-right groups.”
In response the Leader noted that he had not seen the video of where the alleged comment had been made. The Leader stated that he completely agreed with Councillor Sansome’s comments on the importance of building of community cohesion and that he hoped all members would concur with this sentiment, especially given the damage that far right groups like the EDL had done in Rotherham. The Leader commented if that was what passed as “OK” in the new Rotherham Democratic Party then he I didn’t think the public of Rotherham would want anything to do with them.
As a supplementary question Councillor Sansome asked whether the Leader agreed with his statement that extremism of any variety was not welcome in the Borough. The Leader noted his full agreement with this sentiment and reaffirmed that far-right groups were not welcome in Rotherham.
3. Councillor B Cutts asked the Leader of the Council “When in 2012 I asked for details of the number of foreign nationals registered in Rotherham, I was advised they were not kept. Subsequently, I learnt that Barnsley provided the research - 3744 in total to date. What is the annual cost to Rotherham for this registration?”.
In response the Leader advised that the Council did not collect statistics on the number of foreign nationals registered in Rotherham, however, the Council could access this information from a number of different publicly accessible sources that provided a picture of the diversity of the town including its non-British population. The Leader noted that using the most recent available official statistics, Migration Yorkshire had estimated that the local population in Rotherham was 264,700 in 2018, showing an increase of around 1,300 people [0.5%] since 2017, with the non-British population making up 4% of the community.
The Leader further advised that as the Council did register foreign nationals there was no annual cost to Rotherham Council for registration. The Leader reminded Councillor Cutts that he had asked a similar question at two previous Council meetings in May 2017 and in February 2019 and had on both occasions been provided with the publicly accessible information that was held by Migration Yorkshire.
As Councillor B Cutts’ supplementary question was substantially the same as the original question the Mayor advised the Leader that no further response was required.
4. Councillor Cowles asked the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety “A recent road survey of Spinneyfield Road produced the following statistics: There were 8,377 vehicles in the week, that’s 1196 a day; there were 15% over the speed limit that’s 1,256 a week that’s 180 a day. Given such high numbers for an estate road will the council consider imposing speed restrictions?”.
In response the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety noted that Spinneyfield was a traffic calmed road that was subject to a 30mph speed limit and that following concerns being expressed about speeding a survey had been carried out between the 9 and 15 October 2019. The Cabinet Member advised that this study had shown that the majority of motorists were found to be travelling at, or below 30.4mph, with average speeds of 26.3mph and that while 15% of recorded vehicle movements were travelling above 30mph, only 34 (0.4%) were recorded at travelling in excess of 35 mph.
The Cabinet Member advised that despite the survey, given the concerns raised by residents, Spinneyfield had been added to the list of locations for consideration of a temporary vehicular activated sign, to be installed to target those not complying with the speed limit. The Cabinet Member noted that this issue was the type of potential scheme for which £450,000 of funding had been put aside for in 2019. The Cabinet Member urged Councillor Cowles to see if there were options within that funding that would address the concerns that had been raised by his residents.
As a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked that as there hadn’t been a serious accident on the road and as such funding wasn’t available, would the Council consider a 20mph speed limit for Spinneyfield and also for Grange Road.
In response the Cabinet Member advised that the £450,000 of funding that had been put aside was for such requests that did not meet the criteria for the funding received from the Government. The Cabinet Member advised that Councillor Cowles should submit this request regarding a new speed limit the next time bids to the fund could be submitted.
5. Councillor Cowles asked the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy “Whiston has experienced 3 floods since 2007, two serious. Residents are required to clean up the mess and pay for damage to the banks caused primarily by water from outside of Whiston. Housing developments are proposed that will exacerbate the problem. Will you guarantee to our residents that planning consent will be withheld until Whiston is adequately protected?”.
In response the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy expressed her sympathies for the residents of Whiston who had suffered from the incidents of flooding.
The Cabinet Member advised that there were two sites allocated in the Local Plan for housing in the Whiston area, one being a site off Lathe Road and the other being a site off Shrogswood Road. It was noted that the site off Lathe Road was the subject of a current undecided planning application, however there was no decision date for this application yet as further considerations were being given to transportation issues surrounding the site. It was noted further that to date no planning application for the Shrogswood Road site had been received.
The Cabinet Member stated that for any schemes to be agreed, a drainage strategy would be required for both these development sites that would demonstrate that the run-off from the sites would have no greater impact on the surrounding drainage than the sites did as a green field sites. Any strategy and proposed mitigation for the sites would be assessed by the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and the Council’s own drainage engineers as part of the approval process before any work could be started on the sites.
The Cabinet Member urged Councillor Cowles to speak to colleagues on the Planning Board who would be directly involved with applications for these sites, as, as a Cabinet member she was not involved in in the determination of individual planning applications.
As a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked that as much of the water causing the flooding in the area was caused by Yorkshire Water releasing water into the brook from other areas, was it reasonable to expect residents to pay for the remedial work to remedy a situation that was out of their control. In response the Cabinet Member while expressing her sympathies with local residents, urged Councillor Cowles to discuss the issue with the Chair and members of the Planning Board.
6. Councillor Cowles asked the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety “In Eastwood recently £400 fines galore for back yards full of rubbish and fly-tipping. In the past we have heard all kinds of excuses as to why enforcement was not possible. Why all of a sudden are we able to identify perpetrators and issue fines?”.
In response the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety welcomed the continued increase in the use of £400 Fixed Penalty Notices for fly-tipping. The Cabinet Member noted that the Council had increased its use of the powers relating to Fixed Penalty Notices, and that over the previous 12 months the Council had issued 53 fines for fly-tipping, compared to 20 in the previous year. The Cabinet Member advised that the improvement in performance had been of a result of changes to the way the service was managed and a greater focus by partners on fly-tipping and other environmental crime, noting that the integrated management of Council and Police resources in local areas had delivered real improvements in this area. The Cabinet Member stated that she was pleased to have overseen these improvements and would continue to ensure that the Council took all possible steps to tackle fly tipping.
Councillor Cowles noted his full support for the stronger action on fly tipping that was being taken but expressed his frustration that this action had not been taken earlier and that the Council had spent significant amounts of money cleaning up fly tipping. As a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked whether the fencing that had been erected to the rear of properties at Grosvenor Road, Eastwood had been paid for by the Council. In response the Cabinet Member advised that she would need to look into this question and would come back to Councillor Cowles when she had the information.
7. Councillor Cowles asked the Cabinet Member for Cleaner Greener Communities “Early last year Councillor Allen attended Whiston Parish Council with a colleague and informed us she was doing a review of parish councils. I asked when the report would be available and was informed October. What has happened to the report?”.
In response the Cabinet Member for Cleaner Greener Communities emphasised that that the visits she and the Council’s Parish Liaison Officer had made to meet with Parish and Town Councils over the previous 12 months had been to look at how the Borough Council worked with the Parish Councils and was not a review of Parish and Town Councils themselves. The Cabinet Member advised that this process and the ongoing discussions with Parish Councillors and Clerks had highlighted a number of key mutual concerns between the Council and the Town and Parish Councils. The Cabinet Member detailed some of these concerns and the actions that were being taken in response to them and advised that a full report on the visits and the proposed actions had been shared with Parish Councils in the September newsletter that was sent to all Parish Clerks and also at the Joint Working Group Meeting on 29 October 2019.
As a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked to see the report and noted his concerns how Parish Councils currently operated without checks or balances. The Cabinet Member advised that Councillor Cowles was welcome to attend a future meeting of the Joint Working Group in order to share his concerns and advised that she would send the report to Councillor Cowles.
8. Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety “Areas such as Catcliffe, Treeton and Whiston have flooded or been close to flooding in the past few months. What solutions to prevent this from happening again is the council taking and what changes are they lobbying for.
In response the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety stated that as the Lead Local Flood Authority, the Council had a duty to investigate any flooding incident and noted that the detailed investigations into the incidents in November had not yet been concluded. The Cabinet Member advised however that the borough needed around £51m of funding to be urgently allocated to ensure that Rotherham was properly protected in the future, including flood defences along the River Don at Parkgate and Kilnhurst, and in Whiston, Catcliffe and Dinnington. The Cabinet Member noted that the Council was working with the other South Yorkshire Authorities and the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, through the South Yorkshire Mayor, to seek this additional government funding for flood alleviation.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked whether the Cabinet Member believed that the proposed flood gate solution for Catcliffe was suitable.
In response the Cabinet Member noted that the issue of flooding and future remediation measures had been the subject of an in depth and valuable discussion at the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board, which had Councillor Carter attended he could had used the opportunity to ask his question to the specialist officers who had been at that meeting. The Cabinet Member advised it was essential that all the South Yorkshire councils worked together regarding flooding to provide the best solution, but as she was not familiar with the technical details of specific schemes, she would ensure that an answer was sent to Councillor Carter regarding the proposed flood gates at Catcliffe.
9. Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Cleaner Greener Communities “New technology which allows for a library to be open without staff being present is proposed to be piloted at some libraries in the borough. How does the council see that working?”.
In response the Cabinet Member for Cleaner Greener Communities noted the widespread and nationwide use of the self-service technology that would be used to enable library services to be available to users without staff being present. The Cabinet Member advised that entry to the libraries during self-service hours would be via a secure keypad and that security would be provided through CCTV monitoring and that an emergency phone would also be available in order to ensure safety of customers. The Cabinet Member noted further that customers who wished to access a library during self-service operating hours would need to have met all the eligibility criteria, read and agreed to the terms and conditions and have completed an induction with staff, and that in the interests of safety, unaccompanied children and young people under the age of 16 would not be permitted during these hours.
The Cabinet Member stated that contrary to any reduction in service, the self-service technology offered the potential for the weekly opening hours at libraries to significantly increase, giving customers greater choice in how and when they used the library service, with the days and times of increased opening hours being informed by the results of the current libraries consultation. The Cabinet Member highlighted the £250,000 that had been secured for a new library building at Brinsworth by the Council working in cooperation with the Parish Council and noted that Councillor Carter had not contributed to this activity.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked whether the installation of self-service technology created the potential for staff reductions at libraries in the future. In response the Cabinet Member stated that she did not agree with that statement and that the changes being proposed were about creating an improved service, and not about reducing numbers of library staff.
10.Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy “Would the Cabinet Member agree with me that the proposed solution to increase the parkway to three running lanes from Catcliffe to Junction 33 is the wrong solution for both local residents and users of the parkway?.
In response the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy stated that she did not agree and advised she thought that most people who had been in rush hour queues at the Rotherham end of the Parkway would also disagree with Councillor Carter’s statement. The Cabinet Member advised that the scheme had been carefully designed to reduce any impact on local residents, with the widening being contained within the existing highway footprint and also introducing a new 50mph speed limit that would improve air quality in the local area. The Cabinet Member acknowledged that local residents did have concerns and advised that there would be further engagement and consultation on the proposals carried out.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked how the proposed scheme would enable easier travel between Sheffield and Rotherham via the motorway junction. In response the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy advised that assessments and studies relating to the scheme were currently being carried out, but that the proposed scheme would improve traffic flow and make journeys easier, as well as improving local air quality, rather than just displacing traffic elsewhere.
11.Councillor Carter asked the Deputy Leader of the Council “What financial, staff, or resource support has the council provided to try and keep the Dinnington campus of Rotherham College from closing?”.
In response the Deputy Leader noted that Rotherham, North Notts College (Dinnington Campus) was outside of Local Authority control, and as an independent organisation received its funding directly from the Department for Education (DfE) (Education and Skills Funding Agency) and as such was directly accountable to the DfE. The Deputy Leader advised that the Council received no funding from the Department for Education in relation to financial, staffing and resource support for any colleges in the borough.
The Deputy Leader noted that whilst the building was subject to consultation on its closure it was understood that it was proposed that the courses at the college be delivered in alternative locations. The Deputy Leader noted the current petition to keep the college open and provided information on the recent public meeting that he had attended regarding the proposed closure, advising that he, other local councillors and the Town Council would do everything they could to keep the site open.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked if the Council was looking at other potential accommodation for the college. In response the Deputy Leader advised that all options were being looked at as it would be a disaster if the college was lost.
12.Councillor Carter asked the Deputy Leader of the Council “How does the council explain its failure to provide enough foster carers in the borough for some of our most vulnerable children?”.
In response the Deputy Leader stated that he did not accept the question and stated that as of February 2020 81.4 % or 493 of Rotherham’s 605 Looked After Children were placed in a family-based setting, including foster care. The Deputy Leader advised that all the foster care placements were either provided by in-house foster carers or commissioned through an Independent Fostering Agency; both options that provided a high quality of care and stability for Rotherham’s Looked After Children.
The Deputy Leader noted that naturally the Council would like more of those foster parents to work directly, in-house with the council and advised that eight new fostering families had been approved to date this year who would be able to provide placements for up to 13 children and that additionally a further 13 new prospective fostering families were scheduled to be seen by Fostering Panel for approval. The Deputy Leader advised that the Council was doing as much as it possibly could to provide quality in-borough foster placements.
There was no supplementary question.
13.Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy “What is the council's current position regarding the opening of Wood Lane, off Brinsworth Road to the public?”.
In response the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy stated that the current position was that Wood Lane was a bus only road, however a number of requests to open Wood Lane to general traffic had been received recently. The Cabinet Member advised that while opening Wood Lane to general traffic may be beneficial to some Brinsworth residents, it could also have a significant negative impact on others. The Cabinet Member noted that Sheffield City Council had commissioned a study of the wider traffic movements between the Advanced Manufacturing Park, Sheffield Business Park and the adjacent areas including Waverley, Brinsworth and Catcliffe, and that this study included Wood Lane and would provide the evidence to help to determine whether this link should remain as a bus only and pedestrian/cycle route or potentially be reopened to all traffic.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked for information on the study that was taking place. The Cabinet Member advised that she would provide Councillor Cater with the details of the study when they had been received.
14.Councillor Cusworth asked the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health “Last week the General Secretary of Unison, the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care all signed Unison’s “Ethical Care Charter” – Can the Cabinet Member tell us what this means for Rotherham?”.
In response the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health thanked Unison for working with the Council on this issue and noted that signing of the Charter was a really positive step for the Council, with the Council being the 46th signatory to the charter since it had been established in 2013.The Cabinet Member noted that the Unison Ethical Care Charter committed the Council to continue working with the borough’s care providers to ensure that care visits met the needs of customers, offered consistent care staff, encouraged permanent contracts, rather than zero-hour contracts and reflected travel time between home care visits in care workers’ pay. As a result of this commitment, all home care providers contracted to work with the Council would be paid at least the real living wage from April 2020. This change would give a pay rise to around 800 home care workers, who would also additionally be entitled to occupational sick pay.
The Cabinet Member advised that under the Social Value Policy agreed by Cabinet in October 2019, the Council had a commitment to promote the Real Living Wage and that activity was taking place to ascertain the feasibility of expanding this to other sectors of Adult Social Care in the future, considering available budget and market conditions. It was noted that discussions had also taken place with other key organisations in Rotherham, through the Rotherham Together Partnership to further expand the principles of the Social Value Policy beyond the Council and into other public services which would include commitments to paying staff and contractors the Real Living Wage.
There was no supplementary question.