Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Public


To receive questions from members of the public who wish to ask a general question in respect of matters within the Council’s area of responsibility or influence.


Subject to the Chair’s discretion, members of the public may ask one question and one supplementary question, which should relate to the original question and answered received.


Councillors may also ask questions under this agenda item.


(1)  Mr. Thirlwall referred to the last Council meeting where he had asked a question about the updating of the Register of Interests for Councillors B. Cutts, John Turner and Reeder, why it had taken a year for them to be altered, the verification process and email audit trail explanations.


He was told by the Chair of the Standards and Ethics Committee that this would be looked into.   Within the month the Registers for Councillors B. Cutts and John Turner were changed, but it took a further 3 weeks for the one for Councillor Reeder to be altered.


At the meeting the Chair explained the reason for the delay was due to the pandemic and the internet with no explanation as to why there were three weeks difference when it could have been completed the day after the Council Meeting.


Mr. Thirlwall was not satisfied with the answer and asked for a further explanation as why the pandemic and the internet prevented Democratic Services registering those interests the day after the Council Meeting.


The Leader was unable to confirm, but asked the Deputy Monitoring Officer if he could perhaps shed more light on the anomaly and he agreed to investigate further and provide an answer in writing.


In a supplementary question Mr. Thirlwall asked if the Leader would ensure Cabinet Members would stop giving unsatisfactory answers.  In response to his question it would have been more acceptable to have admitted a mistake rather than giving a silly answer.


The Leader acknowledged Mr. Thirlwall’s comment and confirmed a response would be provided to the question in writing.


(2)  Mr. Felstead referred to his question at the last Council Meeting where he asked about the financial performance of the Wilmot Dixon schemes who was unable to confirm the overall cost or overall value, but explained it was not about making money.  He also asked about the procurement of the contract with Wilmot Dixon and strongly suspected this had not been competitively tendered.  He, therefore, asked if the Council would stand by the town’s motto embossed on the Council’s coat of arms.


The Leader confirmed the information requested by Mr. Felstead was to be provided in writing and this would be the most appropriate way of living up to the town’s motto.


Cabinet Members were reliant on professionals providing advice and those schemes would had gone through a competitive tendering process.  This one was a more complicated process because of the involvement of Homes England and the City Region.


In a supplementary question Mr. Felstead asked how it could the town’s motto “By Industry and Honour” be demonstrated and supported when a national contractor had been successful.  Wilmot Dixon would only use sub-contractors and Rotherham’s local contractors had been turned away.  Money coming into the area would only be redirected out again.  He further asked if anyone from the Council or Labour Party had received any gifts or hospitality from Willmott Dixon.


The Leader asked Mr. Felstead to wait for the written response from the Cabinet Member relating to the legal framework under which Willmott Dixon secured contract.  He  pointed out the Social Value Policy which was introduced last year would give additional weighting to the legal requirements of the competitive tendering process for companies that employed local people to pay at least the living wage and a number of other requirements intended to keep money in the local economy.  This would be reported on annually.


The Leader was unable to confirm if anyone had received any gifts or hospitality from Wilmot Dixon, but it was a legal requirement for the Gifts and Hospitality Register to be published.   He would endeavour to check and get back to Mr. Felstead.


(3)  Mr. Harron asked about Christmas and support for those most in need and described the funding raising efforts for Swinton Lock from adult survivors and how churches and mosques, like St. Joseph’s at Dinnington,  were working to support very hard to reach groups and commended them for their efforts and the work that was taking place.


The Leader was happy to associate himself with the comments.  He found it remarkable that some of the survivor community were carrying out such work.  He considered them remarkable people to overcome their own terrible experiences driving them forward to support others.


In a supplementary question Mr. Harron again spoke about the efforts of St. Joseph’s at Dinnington and how they had engaged people to talk about different aspects of life.  He, therefore, asked if it would be possible to engage an officer to talk about democracy in Rotherham so that people could be invited to listen.


The Leader confirmed he was happy to look at this and invited Mr. Harron to send details through and the Council would see what could be facilitated.


(4)  A further written question was received from Elizabeth who asked if it could be explained what support would be given to the homeless in Rotherham during the Christmas period.


A reply in writing would be provided to Elizabeth.


As an update, however, Councillor Beck confirmed that at the end of 13th November there were approximately 427 active homeless cases which had increased since the start of the pandemic.


Since the 10th April 87 households had been supported into long term accommodation who were actually homeless or were at risk of becoming homeless.


The Service was working hard and doing everything it could to support people.  The Council had increased the number of temporary accommodation units from 64 before the pandemic to 110 as of today with a target of increasing this to 114 to further ensure no one in Rotherham was sleeping rough.  Officers were almost on a daily basis walking around the town offering assistance and support to anyone sleeping rough to ensure they were provided with shelter.  Of course they could not force people to take up the support and all those who refused assistance would continue to be supported and signposted to agencies, charities and community support groups.  Funding was available to ensure the Council had the resources to support those and utilised by people who may need it.