To put questions, if any, to Cabinet Members and Committee Chairpersons (or their representatives) under Council Procedure Rules 11(1) and 11(3).
(1) Councillor Jepson asked the Leader following three Labour Councillors being removed from office for non-attendance at meetings, did the Leader think it fair that their Wards have now lost £1,483 from the Community Leadership Fund which could have been used to help sustain local organisations following the pandemic as well as losing other benefits that having three Ward Councillors would bring.
In response the Leader advised that as the Community Leadership Fund was allocated to individual Councillors as opposed to Wards, that this particular funding could not be utilised by other Councillors and noted that the situation had been communicated through to Councillor at Ward briefings. The Leader stated that it was regrettable that the Councillors referred to had been removed from office due to non-attendance at meetings and noted that all wards should have a full complement of councillors.
As a supplementary question Councillor Jepson asked that as the Community Leadership Fund was able to be spent on both revenue and capital projects, whereas the Ward fund could not, had the remaining Councillors for the Wards that had lost Councillors made representations regarding the loss of available funding for their Wards.
The Leader stated that he was not aware of any specific representations from those Councillors had been made, but advised that this issue had been raised with the Deputy Leader who was the responsible Cabinet Member.
(2) Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Waste Roads and Community Safety given the challenges with Coronavirus continuing during the winter, how had the Council planned for winter pressures on essential Council services, specifically highway maintenance such as road gritting?
In response the Cabinet Member for Waste, Road and Community Safety noted her thanks to all frontline staff, including Highways staff for their work during the pandemic who had ensured that services had continued to be delivered and advised that contingency plans were in place to ensure that essential highway maintenance tasks could be delivered throughout the winter effectively and also in a Covid secure way.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked how the potential impact of staff absences over the winter would be mitigated in order to ensure that services continued to be delivered.
The Cabinet Member advised that services across the Council had been planning in order to build resilience into their service delivery plans for winter and noted that drivers from other services would be deployed to grit roads if needed during the winter. The Cabinet Member noted, however, that sickness absence, even with the best planning, had the potential to impact on service delivery, but noted that experience developed during the pandemic so far in delivering services would be used in order to minimise any potential disruption to services.
(3) Councillor Jepson asked the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety further to recent extensive utility works being carried out in his Ward which have led to numerous complaints, will the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety ensure that these companies and their sub-contractors were taken to task and made to carry out the works according to current legislation, that the standard of the reinstatement works were acceptable and if not take any necessary enforcement action against them.
In response the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety advised that the Council had powers that were derived from the New Roads and Street Works Act legislation in terms of dealing with utility companies to ensure they undertook works in a way that minimised disruption and was compliant with the law. The Cabinet Member advised that since April 2020 the Council’s Highway Inspectors had carried out 979 inspections of utility works, of which 15.6% were found to be defective and had been rectified following the Council’s intervention.
The Cabinet Member assured the meeting that the Council was aware of Councillor Jepson’s concerns regarding the recent Northern PowerGrid works in his Ward and advised that Northern PowerGrid had already returned to site to rectify some defective works following the Council’s intervention. The Cabinet Member stated that where issues were reported the Council would always ensure that works were inspected and that any issues were resolved with inspections carried out in accordance with the New Roads and Street Works Act legislation.
Councillor Jepson thanked the Cabinet Member for the work that had been carried out to address his concerns. As a supplementary question Councillor Jepson asked what action could be taken to address the problem of the sub-contractors who did not follow correct procedures regarding street works.
The Cabinet Member advised that any problems regarding the work of sub-contractors should be reported so that incidents could be investigated.
(4) Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety compared to plans prior to the start of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, was the Council on track to make its road resurfacing targets?
In response the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety advised that plans were on track and that even if planned works were delayed due to the pandemic in 2020/21, that she was confident that the Council was on track to fully deliver the full four year resurfacing programme within the timescales allocated for the funding.
As a supplementary question, Councillor Carter asked that whilst plans were currently on track, what mitigation plans had been put in place to ensure that this remained the case with the potential of disruption caused adverse weather.
The Cabinet Member advised that delays caused by adverse weather were unavoidable and that any planned works impacted would be rescheduled to enable the overall programme to be completed on time.
(5) Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety “Has the Council identified any hot beverage retail outlets that posed a security/safety risk within the Borough? If so, could the Cabinet Member please list these?
In response the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety advised that all retail outlets had an obligation to operate in accordance with national legislation which meant that they should operate in a way that did not pose a security or safety risk to people within the Borough, and noted that the Council would use all its statutory powers to reduce or remove any risks that were presented by retail outlets that failed to operate as required by the law.
The Cabinet Member stated that no retail outlets in Rotherham had been identified as posing significant safety or security risks, with the only exceptions being any retail outlets that were either the subject of a current investigation, where formal action was yet to be taken, or that had been the subject of formal action and were now the involved in an appeal process. The Cabinet Member emphasised that in any of these situations it would not be appropriate to provide details of the retail outlet involved in a public meeting as this action could prejudice any ongoing investigation or court proceedings.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked that with regard to the current situation surrounding the “Matki Chai” coffee shop in Eastwood, did she have full confidence in the Licensing Board to carry out its functions in a way that did not racially discriminate.
In response the Cabinet Member advised that she would never support any type of discriminatory behaviour, but that as the case referred to was currently going through the appeal process, stated that it would not be appropriate to comment further.
(6) Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Waste Roads and Community Safety when and how would residents be compensated for the loss of garden waste collections during March, April and May earlier this year?
In response the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety noted that the Council, in common with many other councils, had suspended garden waste collections in the early days of the pandemic in order to ensure that reduced staff resources could be focussed on the delivery of general household and recycling collections. Garden waste collections had recommenced as soon as had been possible.
The Cabinet Member advised that whilst the terms and conditions of the Garden Waste Collection Service stated that the Council was not required to make a refund if services were interrupted, compensation for the six week suspension of the Garden Waste Collection Service would be offered. The Cabinet Member noted that residents that subscribed to the 2020/21 collection service would be able to either choose to receive a discount against the total cost of re-subscribing to the Garden Waste Collection Service in 2021/22 or receive cash refund to the equivalent value. The Cabinet Member advised that further details of how residents would be able to claim this compensation would be circulated to subscribers before the end of the year.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked that while it was good to hear that compensation would be made, would an update be sent to residents to advise of the situation.
The Cabinet Member noted that subscribers had been advised compensation would be offered, but that it would not be helpful to announce a procedure for refunds that subsequently had to be changed in response to changing circumstances surrounding the pandemic.
(7) Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety what incentives did the Council provide to commercial organisations to recycle who contracted their waste collection to the Council?
In response the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety advised that currently the Council did not offer any incentives to commercial organisations to recycle and reduce the amount of general waste. The Cabinet Member advised that the focus of the Council had been on providing the best domestic refuse and recycling service that was possible but noted that there were plans to develop a better commercial waste offer. The Cabinet Member advised that due to the difficulties created by the pandemic that it was currently difficult to develop new services but assured Councillor Carter that the Council was keen to develop an improved commercial waste service.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked whether the Cabinet Member thought it was acceptable that six months after the Council had declared a Climate Emergency that a plan to develop an improved commercial waste offer was not yet in place.
The Cabinet Member stated that the teams responsible for the delivery of waste and recycling services had worked exceptionally hard during the unprecedented demands created by the pandemic to ensure core services had continued to be delivered to residents and reaffirmed the Council’s commitment to develop and enhanced commercial service.
(8) Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety so far this year how was the Council’s recycling rate compared to previous years?
In response the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety stated that the Council’s recycling rate to date was 43.8%, compared to 47.1% for the same point in 2019. The Cabinet Member advised that the reduction in the recycling rate was a nationwide trend and was a direct result of restrictions imposed due to the pandemic. The Cabinet Member advised that the reduction in the rate in recycling had been impacted in particular by an increase in general waste created by more people being at home offsetting the increase in recyclables that had been collected, the suspension of garden waste collections that normally made a significant impact on the recycling rate and the closure of the Household Waste Recycling Centres for a time at the start of the pandemic.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked that as people’s lifestyles were changing in response to the pandemic, would the Council be looking at ways to ensure that recycling was maximised across the Borough.
The Cabinet Member advised that ways to improve the recycling service were always being looked at, noting that residents could now use the kerb side collections to recycle Tetrapaks and that residents could request an additional recycling bin free of charge in order to help them to recycle more.
(9) Councillor B. Cutts asked the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy as owner and landlord of the Guest and Chrimes site, what safeguard/conditions did Rotherham MBC put into the tenant agreement to protect the listed office block?
In response the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy stated that there were no specific safeguards or conditions put in the lease agreement to protect the listed elements of the Guest and Chrimes buildings, but noted that the appropriate planning processes that would consider the site’s listed status would followed with regards to any future development of the site.
As a supplementary question Councillor B. Cutts asked what action the Council was taking to protect the built heritage across the Borough at a time when listed buildings were being lost, and others were in poor repair.
The Cabinet Member advised of the many investments and activities that were being carried out in the Town Centre and across the Borough to improve the built environment.
(10) Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety in recent months have the levels of fly tipping continued to rise following the easing of lockdown compared to previous years?
In response the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety advised that whilst the number of fly tipping jobs the Council had dealt with in the early stages of the lockdown period initially fell, the Council dealt with 1,751 fly tipping jobs in the period from April to June which was a 28% increase compared to the same period in 2019. The Cabinet Member advised further that since the easing of restrictions in June, the number of fly tipping cases had fallen with the Council dealing with1,510 fly tipping incidents in the period from July to September, which was a reduction of 14%.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked for clarification on whether the 14% reduction was from the previous quarter or from the same period in 2019.
The Cabinet Member confirmed it was a 14% reduction in incidents from the previous quarter.
(11) Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy how much money had the City Region been allocated from the Transforming Cities Funding?
In response the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy advised that the Transforming Cities Funding had granted £166m to the Sheffield City Region for expenditure on public transport and active travel infrastructure schemes up to 2023, with £29.3m having been identified for improvements in Rotherham.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked for information on how the Sheffield City Region compared to other areas that had made bids to the Transforming Cities Funding.
The Cabinet Member advised that while it did appear that the Sheffield City Region often received less funding than other areas, that the £29.3m that had been allocated for improvements in Rotherham was still a significant figure.
(12) Councillor Cowles asked the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy this week in the media and financial press there was concern over cinema companies e.g. Cineworld. If the new Bond film was not a major success a couple of major companies may fail. If this happened how might/would this affect the Forge Island development?
In response the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy advised that a Cinema was a key part of the Forge Island scheme and negotiations were at a very advanced stage with a cinema operator. The Cabinet Member noted that the negotiations had continued to progress against the background of the pandemic and the difficult trading conditions cinema operators had been experiencing. The Cabinet Member noted that while the negotiations had presented challenges that it was very positive that that the cinema operator had been negotiating with an awareness of the impact of the pandemic on the market, and that such considerations had been factored in its business planning.
As a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked that as major cinema companies were struggling in the current market conditions, what would be the impact on the Forge Island development if the cinema did not end up being built and whether the Council had a “plan B” for the site if this were to occur.
The Cabinet Member advised that due to the commercially sensitive nature of discussions she was unable to share further details, but assured Councillor Cowles that she was keeping a very close eye on the negotiations and that she was confident that the deal was on track.
(13) Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety following last year’s floods in the Borough what changes have the Council made to the cleaning of drains and gullies to mitigate the impact of unprecedented rainfall to avoid flooding disruption?
In response the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety advised that the Council maintained road gullies in accordance with its Annual Gully Cleansing Schedule for cleaning and repair operations and that the Schedule was based on Construction Industry Research and Information Association recommended requirements for gully cleaning operations. The Cabinet Member noted that as part of the inspection schedule, defects were identified, and a programme of works carried out each year to repair damaged gullies and drains. The Cabinet Member stated that the Annual Gully Schedule also identified road gullies that were in areas that were sensitive to heavy rain and that could be vulnerable to surface ponding. When reports of potential heavy rainfall in these locations were received the gullies were inspected in advance.
The Cabinet Member advised that the flooding that had occurred over the Winter of 2019/20 had been caused by an exceptional rainfall event, and as such was not generally caused as a result of any deficiencies within the highway drainage system or the condition of road gullies, with flooding occurring due to river and watercourses overtopping.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter asked whether the Council was doing enough to tackle flooding by increasing drainage capacity in effected areas.
The Cabinet Member noted that gully cleaning flood defences were separate issues but advised that if Councillor Carter had an particular areas on concern on this issue that he should contact her so that they could be fully investigated.
(14) Councillor Cowles asked the Cabinet Member for Housing over 1.5m people owning modern flats face ten years of uncertainty to prove they were safe. The banks would not lend, owners could not sell. External features described as rubbish building work was to blame. Balconies, wall structures, spaces between floors and insulation. We have modern flats and building many more. He asked the Cabinet Member was he sure this was not happening here?
In response the Cabinet Member for Housing stated that he did not believe there were any problems, as detailed by Councillor Cowles. With regard to Council housing in the Borough, the Council had gone over and above statutory requirements regarding fire safety to ensure that residents remained safe in their homes.
The Cabinet Member advised that in Rotherham there was only one high rise block of flats, which was the Council-owned Beeversleigh block in the Town Centre. The Cabinet Member noted that building was predominantly constructed of brick and concrete and that it had passed stringent fire risk assessments, with the Council having invested more than £1.5m on refurbishment over the past four years including the installation of a fire sprinkler system. The Cabinet Member noted that twice-yearly checks were also undertaken on fire alarms along with dry riser servicing, sprinkler systems and bin chute servicing in addition to regular communal area checks.
As supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked about wider safety measures as his initial question had not just been regarding high rise blocks.
The Cabinet Member detailed the additional safety measures that had been applied across all Council-owned flats and again stated that with regard to Council housing in the Borough, that the Council had gone over and above statutory requirements regarding fire safety to ensure that residents remained safe in their homes.
(15) Councillor Carter asked the Cabinet Member for Corporate Services and Finance at the start of the Covid-19 crisis the Government allocated Councils funding for Business Support Grant. How much was allocated to Rotherham Council to distribute, how many businesses were allocated the funding and was there any unallocated money following the 28thAugust application deadline?”
In response the Cabinet Member for Corporate Services and Finance advised that the Government had provided £49.580m of Business Support Grants to assist the Council in administering the Small Business Grant Fund, the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund and the Discretionary Business Grant. The Cabinet Member noted that the allocation had made by the Government based on an estimated requirement, and not using any local knowledge, with the eligibility criteria for support also being set by the Government. The Cabinet Member noted that Council promoted the schemes widely via social media, press releases, the Business Chamber, direct contact (calls, emails and letters) and the Council’s website, with extra promotion of the schemes in the weeks leading up their closure.
The Cabinet Member advised that 3,934 businesses had successfully applied and that £44.440m had been paid out to businesses of all sizes across the Borough. The Cabinet Member advised that the £5.140m of grant received by the Council that had not been used would be returned to the Government. The Cabinet Member stated that the Government had also provided £2.479m for a discretionary scheme that had been used to support 274 businesses and noted that all of this money had been allocated to businesses.
As a supplementary question Councillor Carter noted that all of the money received should have been used to support businesses and asked why all the funding received had not been spent.
The Cabinet Member advised that all money allocated to businesses had been allocated correctly, and in line with the Government’s rules for how the money was to be used. While it would have been desirable to use all of the available funding in the Borough, it would not have been responsible to allocate funding to businesses that did not meet the required criteria.
(16) Councillor Cowles asked the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety of the 35 PSPO breaches issued in Eastwood in the past year how many have been for noise ASB related offenses?
In response the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety advised that the Council took noise nuisance very seriously and had recently made a decision to invest in additional resources to ensure that there was a more effective Out of Hours Service to deal with noise and anti-social behaviour. The Cabinet Member advised that over the course of the pandemic the Council had had a seven day service in place to support residents in terms of this work, and that this approach would continue in the future.
As a supplementary question Councillor Cowles noted the additional cameras that had been installed in the area and asked whether it was the case that these could only be used regarding fly tipping offences.
The Cabinet Member noted the improving situation regarding fly tipping and noise complaints in Eastwood and the contribution that Ward Members had played in this in working with their community. The Cabinet Member also noted the significant increase of Fixed Penalty Notices that had been issued compared to the same time in 2019. The Cabinet Member advised that she did not know the exact rules surrounding what the cameras could and could not be used for an advised Councillor Cowles that she would look into this further this and get the information to him.