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 Whomersley asked how many street sweeping machines did RMBC own, hire or lease that could be used in Dinnington High Street and Outdoor Markets, and could the Ward get the usage of one to help clean on a regular basis.
Councillor Beck explained that due to the investments made in recent years, the Council now has 3 large mechanical road sweepers and 3 mini sweepers.
Dinnington High Street benefitted from regular cleaning by the local zonal cleaning team. Any cleaning required was generally undertaken manually by that team at the same time as emptying the litter bins and any other required work.
The Cabinet Member was advised that given that there was daily attendance in Dinnington the mini sweeper was not generally used unless it was required for work that could not be undertaken manually.
However, Councillor Whomersley was advised that any member with requests for works of this kind should speak to the Manager of the relevant zonal team, which in his case was Andy Roddis.
In a supplementary question Councillor Whomersley asked if the cleaning scheduled could be shared with him.
Councillor Beck agreed to send a copy to Councillor Whomersley.
(2) Councillor Ball asked how many children took up the offer of Beat The Street in Maltby, Hellaby and Hooton Levitt?
Councillor Roche explained that the Beat The Street programme saw 11,215 players register for the Rotherham ‘Game’, with registrants coming from every Ward in the Borough and 413 registrants from postcodes outside of the Borough.
Information for the scheme was held by Ward and Maltby, Hellaby and Hooton Levitt were covered by the Hellaby and Maltby West Ward which had 107 registered players and Maltby East Ward which had 36 registered players totalling in 143. Overall, 64% of participants were aged 0-18 years.
In a supplementary question Councillor Ball explained the need for more programmes such as Beat The Street as bus services had been suspended in the evening and young people needed more things to do. He asked whether there were plans to continue with such programmes?
Councillor Roche agreed that such programmes did need to continue. However the funding for the Beat The Street Programme was external, coming from the Department of Transport’s Active Travel Grant programme and Sport England and was not able to cover all areas within the Borough. He agreed that projects needed to continue and should external grants become available, the Council would look at delivering programmes with the Wards that were not covered.
(3) Councillor C. Carter asked did the Cabinet Member agree that there should be more location-based (as opposed to person-based) funding and resource for youth work to tackle problem areas, such as the so-called Black Path in Brinsworth?
Councillor Cusworth confirmed in an ideal world both she and others would all like to see more activities for children and young people. However, once the former Coalition Government had cut a billion pounds from the Early Intervention Grant, Rotherham, like Councils across the country, had to make difficult decisions about how to use vastly reduced resources.
This year the Council have been able to use grant to invest in places to go and things to do for young people, with over £193,000 distributed to partner agencies creating over 3,800 additional opportunities for young people to access across the Borough in 2021. The Holiday Activity Fund (HAF) secured from the DfE had also provided additional activities at Easter, Summer and Winter to compliment this.
What the Cabinet Member would not want to see was the Council moving away from the kind of targeted youth work interventions with individuals that made a huge difference in their lives, sometimes really turning lives around and preventing children from getting into greater need and coming into Social Care services.
In an adjoining Ward the Cabinet Member was pleased to report on the Youth Art Project working on street art and the boards located on Library buildings. She was happy to discuss any specific issues with the Councillor Carter outside of this meeting if she so wished.
(4) Councillor Tinsley asked whether the Council were considering introducing a reporting app where, for example, litter and flytipping could be reported? He explained that it could be like the Fix My Street App.
Councillor Beck explained that this was not under consideration but that the Council were always looking for way to make it easier for customers to access services. Whilst there were no current plans to introduce an ‘App’ specifically for reporting littering and flytipping, a number of enhancements would be implemented over the next few months including adding GPS location services for people reporting via their mobile phones, to improve the current online forms and make them easier for customers to make reports.
Councillor Beck further explained that the Fix My Street App generally forwarded reports to the Council for further investigation and in some cases, added another layer of bureaucracy that can slow down responses. For that reason, he encouraged people who wanted to report issues online to do so directly. Customers could also contact services in writing or by phone if it was more suitable to their individual needs.
In a supplementary question Councillor Tinsley asked the Cabinet Member to review the online forms as they were not easy to use on smartphones and could take a long time to complete.
Councillor Beck explained that there was a project underway looking at all online forms to ensure progress continued to be made. He agreed that they should be reviewed.
(5) Councillor A. Carter referred to an incident last month where a young person was seriously injured in a road traffic accident in a car on Whitehill Lane between the junctions of Rothbury Way and Buckingham Way and asked would the Council commit to reviewing safety measures on this road and coming up with a plan to make the road safer?
Councillor Beck was sorry to hear about this road traffic collision in Councillor Carter’s Ward and wished to send on good wishes to the young person involved and their family.
Although some calming works and a crossing were completed a few years ago, there were no schemes currently under evaluation for this site. As the Councillor may know, the Council based interventions both on accident records and over the last 3 years on requests from Ward Councillors into the Neighbourhood Road Safety Fund. The Cabinet Member understood this area had previously been requested for consideration, but again not during the current year.
The Cabinet Member had requested that the Road Safety Team visit the site to assess whether any other factors existed which were contributing to accidents such as the one which occurred last month, and depending on their findings to consider what steps may be appropriate.
In a supplementary question Councillor A. Carter asked about reviewing the position and asked if access could be given to data specifically that could be in public form to see if there was an issue in this area and if traffic calming measures could be considered such as speed bumps or a crossing.
Councillor Beck was not aware of specific data available, but would take the comments away for professional analysis with the Road Safety Team, but would keep Ward Councillors up-to-date on what may be possible.
(6) Councillor Tinsley explained that the restoration of Maltby tip was around 3 years away. He suggested that the future use of the surrounding site could include a heritage centre to exhibit the history of Maltby and the surrounding area which included mining and the Royal Ordnance Factory where the Lee Enfield Rifle was once made. Councillor Tinsley asked whether the Council would commit to producing a bid for external funding?
Councillor Sheppard explained that the Council’s Heritage Service was willing to work with all local Members, or any other interested parties on opportunities to celebrate Maltby’s strong heritage. However he had been advised that the Council was not aware of anyone developing a plan for this nor any external funding schemes that might be appropriate for the kind of scheme Councillor Tinsley had described.
In a supplementary question Councillor Tinsley suggested that the National Lottery Heritage Fund could be an option and asked whether Councillor Sheppard would meet with him to look in more detail at the option?
Councillor Sheppard agreed to a meeting and asked Councillor Tinsley to arrange the date.
(7) Councillor Ball referred to the calling of a climate emergency and asked what had been done to combat this in Rotherham from the last full Council meeting?
Councillor Lelliott explained the Council had reaffirmed its commitment to a cleaner, greener local environment through the new Council Plan which was being considered as part of this agenda. Within the Plan there was a series of activities and actions that would help to drive forward progress to the targets set. Specifically in the last few months:-
· Work had started on developing the Rotherham Climate Strategy as well as finalising the Annual Report which would be brought to Cabinet in March.
· A dedicated Data Analyst role to help more accurately measure carbon emissions from day-to-day Council business which was a key part of delivering the Climate Action plan.
· Completed a baseline of emissions from areas such as the Council’s fleet and buildings which would help calculate progress towards Net Zero target by 2030.
· Improved the energy efficiency at 217 homes (The Lanes).
· Secured £140,000 for tree planting in urban areas, from the Urban Tree Challenge Fund.
· Continue to promote Active Travel, which included significant investment in cycle lanes (such as the new lanes along Sheffield Road in Templeborough) as well as a new Cycling Strategy which was on the agenda for the next Cabinet meeting.
· During the construction of the new Canal Barrier in the town centre normal concrete was substituted for an Earth Friendly alternative which saw carbon emissions reduced by 76%.
In a supplementary question Councillor Ball explained that driving through Hellaby he could witness 15 electric charging point spaces being taken up by diesel vans. He asked the Cabinet Member how she had been transported to the meeting today.
Councillor Lelliott confirmed she had travelled to the meeting in her own diesel vehicle. She referred to the operation of the Members’ Working Group, open to all Elected Members, to put their view and offer support. There was a need for electric vehicles, but this came at a cost and not everyone was able to afford one with very limited disposal income. It was, therefore, suggested that Councillor Ball join the Council in lobbying Government to make electric vehicles more affordable.
(8) Councillor Tinsley stated that construction of the new housing estate on Grange Lane, Maltby had now commenced and as such, asked whether the Council would undertake detailed modelling of traffic at the Queen’s Corner Junction and look to implement improvements to ease traffic congestion and the risk of further accidents?
Councillor Beck explained that as part of the planning approval for the new housing development, the Council secured a financial contribution from the developer to improve the signalised junction at Queens crossroads. This was the result of reviewing traffic modelling that had been undertaken in association with the new development. The funding would provide a new controller to make the traffic signals more responsive and able to adapt to the prevailing traffic conditions. These measures should help improve the efficiency of the signalised crossroads. Once the works were in place for a period of time, the junction would be assessed for its effectiveness and if necessary any further works considered.
In a supplementary question Councillor Tinsley asked if the improvements could include priority turning?
Councillor Beck explained that he was not aware of any improvements relating to priority turning but would look into the matter and provide a further response in writing.
(9) Councillor Tarmey asked, in the context of the increasing cost of energy and uncertainties in the national policy on fracking, did the administration agree with him that fracking should be banned, and would commit to do everything it could do stop fracking from happening in Woodsetts and elsewhere in the Borough?
Councillor Lelliott confirmed the Council had an established record and policy to protect Rotherham against fracking.
At the meeting of the Council on 18th October, 2017, the Council called on the Government to institute a national ban and committed to not allow any fracking activities, including survey work, on Council-owned or controlled land and property. It was actually specifically noted that day the regret that the former Liberal Democrat Minister at the time had lifted the national moratorium on fracking.
Two planning applications have been submitted in relation to fracking in Rotherham. One in Harthill and one in Woodsetts. Both of these applications were refused by the Council on planning grounds to protect the locality.
Both refused applications were appealed. In the first appeal, the refusal of the Harthill application was overturned, and permission granted. This was a blow to local interests and the protection of local communities. Fortunately for local residents, this planning permission lapsed without being commenced before June of last year.
The real test to come now was for the Government to decide what to do about the Woodsetts appeal. The decision on this appeal was called in for the Secretary of State to determine. A decision should have been taken by April 2020, but nearly 2 years later still no decision had been made. This had created uncertainty and the prospect of an approval hanging over the local community.
The Council believed had made clear its position on fracking and await the Secretary of State’s decision for Woodsetts.
In a supplementary question Councillor Tarmey asked if the Council at this time remain resolutely opposed to fracking in the Borough?
Councillor Lelliott confirmed the Council was fully committed to not allowing fracking.
(10) Councillor Miro asked where the garden waste collected by the Council ended up, whether any of it was used for compost or if any consideration had been given to the use of anaerobic digestors to get maximum benefit from the waste?
Councillor Beck confirmed that all of the garden waste collected from residents by the Council was currently turned into compost. It was collected by the Council and taken to a transfer station before being transported to either Hull or West Yorkshire. The waste was then turned into compost which was then sold by the contractor for both commercial and domestic uses.
The waste material was composted using aerobic methods which are similar to those used in a compost heap at home. This was generally considered the most efficient and economic way to compost garden waste and met all required standards.
In a supplementary question Councillor Miro explained that it had been suggested that anaerobically digesting waste from grass cutting in the UK could potentially remove the need to import gas for heating homes. He asked whether the Council had any plans or if anything could be put in place to use some of the product of that for heating Council homes, at least as a prelude to increasing the use of a renewable energy in the UK market?
Councillor Beck stated that it was an interesting idea but one that the Council was not in a position to consider at that moment in time. However, the Council was on a journey in trying to embrace and learn about environmentally friendly ways of reusing the waste produced.
(11) Councillor Ball asked how much was it costing the taxpayers of Rotherham to have meetings away from the Chamber?
The Leader confirmed that up to and including this meeting date the associated costs of holding meetings away from the Council Chamber were total of £29,055.
All charges relating to hosting meetings away from the Council Chamber have been covered by the Government Covid Grant.
(12) Councillor Hoddinott explained that a number of hospitals in the country had declared a critical incident. She asked what the situation at Rotherham Hospital was and how it was impacting on Council services?
Councillor Roche explained that Rotherham Hospital had not declared a critical incident during the current rise of COVID transmissions but it had been close to doing so and remained under significant pressure. The hospital had to manage an increase in patients being admitted with COVID or transmission in hospital. This had not translated to a significant increase in people requiring critical care but did significantly disrupt the operation of the hospital concerning elective surgery and configuration of wards to manage infections and treatment. Councillor Roche confirmed that, at the time of the Council meeting, there were 2 COVID patients requiring critical care and that COVID rates across the Borough were down on the previous week.
Councillor Roche also explained that although Rotherham Hospital had not declared a critical incident, the options available to ensure timely and appropriate discharge from hospitals into social care settings was limited due to COVID outbreaks, for example into care homes. There were daily operational calls and regular escalation calls both operationally and with the senior executives across the hospital, Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group and Adult Social Care to monitor the situation and this included discussions with NHSE where appropriate. The demand levels within the Trust fluctuated, however, overall the hospital and the wider social care market continued to be fragile. The partnership was, however, strong and effective having been built up over the last years. This had been confirmed by LGA reviews.
There had to be flexibility in relation to hospital flow due to a number of COVID outbreaks in the Council’s local authority homes. As such the decision was taken to use respite facilities at Conway Crescent to assist with hospital flow at Christmas. This was contained in a decision record. It will be reviewed weekly and normal service for people with learning disabilities and their cares will resume as soon as practically possible.
In a supplementary question Councillor Hoddinott expressed concerns about the pressures on the NHS and Adult Social Care. She reported that Yorkshire Ambulance Service had suspended some of its non-emergency services which would mean many vulnerable people would not be able to access their appointments. Councillor Hoddinott asked the Cabinet Member for his views on this situation.
Councillor Roche explained that he was aware of the situation and found it most concerning. He reported that some people were being told to make their own way to hospital which he described as diabolical. He explained that there had been many years of underfunding and the entire situation was extremely concerning.
(13) Councillor Tinsley referred to pavements across Maltby now turning into paths that you would associate when rambling. Having had multiple reports of people having had accidents he asked when would programmes for improvements be instigated?
Councillor Beck confirmed the Council had invested around £900,000 to repair pavements as part of the Highway Repair Programme in the 2021/22 financial year and would invest around a million pounds repairing and improving pavements across Rotherham in 2022/23. This year the Council would improve over 11 kilometres of footways through 31 schemes.
The design team were currently evaluating schemes for inclusion in next year’s programme and the opportunity to repair sections of the footway network in Maltby would be considered.
In a supplementary question Councillor Tinsley confirmed he could name a few pavements which were in dire need of report.
Councillor Beck welcomed Councillor Tinsley sending details on.
(14) Councillor Bacon stated that he had noticed the less than desirable state of Rotherham Interchange and asked what the Council was doing to ensure something was done so that residents in Aston and Todwick and throughout the rest of the Borough had the best level of service?
Councillor Beck explained that Rotherham Interchange was subject to a recent £12 million refurbishment in 2019 as part of a wider investment in the whole building. It was managed by South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority which held responsibility for the former South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive. He explained that he would be happy to raise any specifics concerns Councillor Bacon may have with SYPTE if those were sent to him.
In a supplementary question Councillor Bacon stated that he believed the Interchange to be filthy, that there were tiles missing and all sorts of other things wrong. He asked the Cabinet Member if the investment had included a maintenance plan and how could he trust that the Forge Island development would not have the same issues?
Councillor Beck explained that there had been huge improvements to the Interchange and that he had been impressed each time he had visited. He reiterated that if there were any specific issues, he would raise them.
(15) Councillor Tinsley referred to there being a surge of developments of HMO’s in Maltby. Development of HMO’s with occupancy below 6 residents was allowed under permitted development rights. No objections or “material considerations” could be made as no planning permission was required. He asked would RMBC consider looking to opt out of the regulation that allowed HMOs to be developed under permitted development rights?
Councillor Lelliott explained a decision to opt out of the Government imposed national planning regulations which allowed HMOs to be developed under permitted development rights would require significant evidence of an issue being caused by HMOs in the area, together with widespread public consultation, and subsequent sign off by the Secretary of State – this was not something that was simply within the Council’s control.
In a supplementary question Councillor Tinsley was aware this was happening and asked if the Cabinet Member would look at this Borough wide.
Councillor Lelliott confirmed she would sit down with officers and put a case together if it was confirmed there was sufficient evidence of problems in the area to meet these requirements. She asked Councillor Tinsley if he had any evidence of this then could he please forward on.