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. Peter Thirlwall asked, following his complaint to the Standards Board about Brian Cutts’ failure to complete his register of interests, the Board decided to take no action against Councillor Cutts, but instead decided that the best course of action would be to regularly remind all Members of their obligations. Therefore, he asked could the Chair of the Board tell him if this had been done?
Councillor McNeely confirmed it had. She also confirmed this matter had been considered by the Standards and Ethics Committee at its meeting in January, 2020 where the Legal Officer recommended reminders being issued to Members on a six monthly basis. The Committee recommended this take place on a monthly basis and this practice had continued to take place.
In a supplementary question Mr. Thirlwall referred to training that had been provided for many years for Members and again for UKIP Members on the Register of Interests. The Legal Officer had also met with Councillor B. Cutts to remind him of the importance of updating his Register of Interests, but still with monthly reminders, his current Register of Interests still had him registered as a Brexit Party member. This was the same for Councillor John Turner and Councillor Reeder who was not registered to any political party. Last September as Chair of Standards you advised all Members had been emailed to alter their Register of Interests. Councillor B. Cutts altered his on the 4th September, 2019, but he still was registered as a Brexit Party member. He, therefore, asked what the Chair of Standards was going to do about it.
Councillor McNeely explained she had listened and been guided by the Legal Officer accordingly. She confirmed that in a meeting with the former Brexit Party and Legal Services it was explained to them what needed to be done. They gave their assurances this would be undertaken. Councillor B. Cutts was not at that meeting and subsequently the Legal Officer had met with him and again he assured everything would be brought up-to-date. If this was not the case then the Legal Officer would be requested to take action.
(2) Elizabeth was not present at the meeting so would receive a response to her question in writing.
(3) Mr. John Smith was not present at the meeting so would receive a response to his question in writing.
(4) Mr. Gerald Dempsey was not present at the meeting so would receive a response to his question in writing.
(5) Ms. Margaret Edge was not present at the meeting so would receive a response to her question in writing.
(6) Ms. Philomena Holland was not present at the meeting so would receive a response to her question in writing.
(7) Mr. Liam Harron asked would the Leader agree to a debate in public (with appropriate social distancing arrangements), ideally before the next Council meeting scheduled for 11th November, 2020, with one or more adult survivors of CSE about (and he quoted the Leader) “the progress the Council and our partners have made in dealing with CSE in Rotherham over the last few years”.
The Leader confirmed the Council had made significant progress, validated by Ofsted and the Government’s intervention, by the fact that more than thirty perpetrators of CSE were now behind bars and that most people who have used the Council’s Post-Abuse Services have indicated those services have helped them over the past five years.
This did not mean that everyone had had a good experience, or that it was not legitimate for individuals to have concerns. The Council would continue to listen and learn.
The Leader confirmed he was always willing to meet with CSE survivors and take learning from them on board. What he did not wish to do was to enter into some form of public debate which could put survivors into a difficult environment. He indicated he was happy to receive representations, but was not willing to enter into a public debate the way described.
In a supplementary question Mr. Harron referred to how on the 16th December, 2014 he had met with the former Leader, Paul Lakin, and offered his help. Unfortunately, following a series of unfortunate events causing delays and the series of unfortunate events on the 10th July, 2020 was just a further example.
Mr. Harron had requested single point of contact to Paul Lakin and he asked the Leader again if he would reinstate a single point of contact for communications rather than him bothering the Leader with the questions. He would prefer to contact a senior officer for himself and for the victims and survivors who he represented to ensure a single point that could be trusted.
The Leader explained he was happy to take this request back for consideration, but pointed out a single email inbox had been made available to Mr. Harron for him to contact the Council. This ensured queries were sent to the most appropriate officer.
(8) ‘T’ was not present at the meeting so would receive a response to her question in writing.
(9) Ms. Chrissy Meleady MBE, was not present at the meeting so would receive a response to her question in writing.
(10) Mr. Paddy Cawkwell explained he had watched the webcast of the Improving Lives Select Commission (ILSC) meeting on 22nd September, 2020 and asked what exactly was the scrutiny role of the Improving Lives with respect to the consultation with victims and survivors of CSE about the re-commissioning of Post Abuse Services and were there any other scrutiny mechanisms in place with respect to this vitally important process?"
The Leader explained the recommissioning process was an operational process carried out by officers working under the direction of the Chief Executive, to the strategic direction of the Councillors who exercised decision making through Cabinet.
The Council’s Scrutiny function provided the opportunity for Members to focus additional oversight and attention on ensuring those operational processes were fit for purpose and that the Council’s policies were working as intended and to make any recommendations into the Executive on how functions may be better discharged.
The route for Scrutiny that regulated that activity was through the Improving Lives Select Commission.
In a supplementary question Mr. Cawkwell referred to perpetrators being sent into custody, but further asked if, as part of the consultation for Post Abuse Services, the Council had consulted with survivors and victims of CSE, was there any victim/survivor involvement and engagement, were they used as stakeholders or any outside agency?
The Leader explained the consultation process on the recommissioning of Post-Abuse Services had since closed. A report had been considered by the Cabinet where they agreed to recommission and the tendering process was currently taking place with the new contracts coming into effect later this year.
As part of the process there was engagement with stakeholders and there was an open forum for survivors, for those who had and had not used the services previously, to help shape what services would look like and for them to feedback.
(11) Mr. John Cape was not present at the meeting so would receive a response to his question in writing.
(12) Mrs. Mary Harronwas not present at the meeting so would receive a response to her question in writing.
(13) Dr. Firas Miro was not present at the meeting so would receive a response to his question in writing.
(14) Ms. P. Cialfi was not present at the meeting so would receive a response to her question in writing.