Agenda item


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 Bennett-Sylvester asked could the Leader please report on progress on provision of a call back service for telephone enquiries from residents to save on their experiencing extended call wait times?


The Leader confirmed the testing identified some areas for development and additional improvements which have since been incorporated into the final design of the new ‘callback’ feature. Robust testing had been undertaken to ensure both customers and staff received a positive experience.


The ‘callback’ facility went ‘live’ on 1st March in a limited way so it could be tested and learnt from.  It was initially being offered for customers experiencing long wait times who have called 01709 336009 (‘Housing Services’ and ‘Housing Repairs’), which were managed by the corporate contact centre. This was very much a pilot phase and these services were chosen as historic data showed a greater likelihood of a long call wait time for enquiries of this nature.


This would be reviewed in terms of how successful the pilot was and then making decisions regarding a wider roll out to further services managed by the corporate contact centre such as Streetpride and Waste Management.


In a supplementary question Councillor Bennett-Sylvester welcomed the progress to date and gave examples of long waiting times (one of one hour and 27 minutes), which was unacceptable especially for callers who had no internet access.  He asked if there was a scheduled timeframe for review of data collected on waiting times.


The Leader confirmed that a report would be prepared in the next few months for officers to review over a suitable time period.


(2)  Councillor T. Collingham referred to Council resources for Dog Warden being severely small in comparison to other environment areas, however, the amount of dog fouling concerns from residents continued to rise. He asked what were the Council doing to address this growing problem?


Councillor Beck explained the Council operated a number of services in relation to dogs and animals which included nuisance and welfare related issues, the collection of stray dogs and dealing with dog fouling.


Councillor Beck gave his assurance that it was not only the Dog Warden Service who were empowered to enforce against irresponsible dog owners. Under a Public Spaces Protection Order the majority of the Council’s Community Protection and Environmental Health Officers were empowered to issue fines in relation to dog fouling and in addition, through the Council’s partnership with Doncaster Council, Local Authority Support were also empowered to serve these types of fixed penalties.


The Council routinely directed these officers to areas where reports of dog fouling were received.


Enforcing dog fouling, however, remained a significant challenge and this was reflected in the low numbers of fines that were issued, not just in Rotherham but nationally. This was primarily because of the fact that when dog walkers were in sight of other people, be they Enforcement Officers or not, they would generally pick up their dog’s mess. The Council continued to target those that did not pick up after their dog and would encourage people to report any areas of concerns, as the Council regularly proactively patrolled hot spot areas.


There had been 470 reports dealt with.


In a supplementary question Councillor T. Collingham asked what was the Service doing to clean up the mess and ensure the Borough had cleaner streets.


Councillor Beck confirmed Members had a role in reporting problem areas and the Service would ensure problems were tackled.  If there were any specific areas of concern the Service could be directed to specifically address them.


(3)  Councillor Barley asked could the Cabinet Member please tell her what support an adult fleeing domestic abuse should expect to receive in the immediate aftermath of leaving an abusive situation, including the specific services offered by RMBC and how this linked in with the support available from partner organisations?


Councillor Alam firstly confirmed the Council and its partners believed victims should have the right to stay in their own home and feel protected through robust action against perpetrators of abuse. Clearly that was not always possible and when a victim did need to flee, the Council offered a range of support services for victims of domestic abuse.


The Council commissioned a bespoke refuge for domestic abuse victims, which included support for the whole family and was currently provided by Rotherham Rise.


The Council also provided a number of stand-alone properties to ensure there was an offer available to meet different needs and circumstances. Again, wrap-around support was in place for the whole family where this was required.


Aside from the provision of accommodation, the Council had an in-house support service which worked with high-risk victims of domestic abuse, alongside an outreach support service delivered by Rotherham Rise who dealt with lower levels of risk. The Council had also been able to introduce specific therapeutic support for victims alongside safety planning, which included the installation of equipment such as alarms and window locks. 


The Council were committed to tackling Domestic Abuse and agreed to increase the funding available to support victims last year by £150,000, and the Cabinet Member was pleased the Government had also increased funding following the Domestic Abuse Act, with £619,000 available for the coming financial year, which had further helped to increase staff capacity.


Councillor Alam confirmed to Councillor Barley that should she have any concerns about these services he would be happy to discuss them further.


In a supplementary question Councillor Barley was aware some victims had to fight for support and had receiving conflicting messages.  On this basis she would like to take up the offer to discuss this further with Councillor Alam.


Councillor Alam welcomed the opportunity.


(4)  Councillor Taylor asked could the Cabinet Member confirm the arrangements to deal with reports of contractor paraphernalia, signs, barriers etc. left behind following utility/highway works.


Councillor Beck explained this was activity the Council was good at with the Council approving and co-ordinating all works that were carried out on the Highway by Statutory Undertakers, for example Yorkshire Water, Northern Gas Networks, or their contractors through the Council’s Streetwork Permitting system and oversaw the Council’s own internal delivery teams in the same way.


The Highway Inspector for each area monitored any Streetwork Permits that were in place in their area and noted when works were nearing the suggested completion date. The Highway Inspector would then visit the site on or around the suggested completion date, to determine if the works have finished and to check if any signs, barriers, or incomplete works remained from the planned works.


If any items remained, the Statutory Undertakers were informed and a charge levied on the Contractor for every day that the site was not cleared. The charge would continue to be made until all signs and barriers were removed from site. The Highway Inspector would check the site every day until items were cleared.


If the signs were deemed a hazard, the Highway Inspector could require that the items were removed within 2 hours and would contact the utility company immediately to ensure this took place.


The Council had issued 45 Notice charges under Section 74 of the New Roads and Streetworks Act 1991 to external Contractors from 1st April 2021 to 24th February 2022 which totalled fines of £25,000.


In a supplementary question Councillor Taylor provided an example on the A57 where signs and barriers were being used as missiles by vandals.  He asked would the Cabinet Member be prepared to meet with him and see where lessons could be learnt.


Councillor Beck confirmed he was happy to meet with Councillor Taylor.


(5)  Councillor T. Collingham had recently stumbled upon the GetRidReyt webpage on the RMBC website. This was aiming to tackle flytipping by displaying images of culprits and requesting people to name and shame.  He asked how were the Council promoting this and where were they receiving the CCTV images from?


Councillor Beck explained the GetRidReyt campaign was a Council initiative to support the approach to tackling fly tipping across the Borough. It started in March 2021 and was currently being refreshed. The images used were captured from the range of CCTV tools that the Council had available, including both the fixed system, with around 100 cameras and Ward-based re-deployable overt and covert cameras numbering around 120.


The campaign aimed to highlight the action being taken by the Council, inform the public about what they needed to do to manage their waste as well as deterring potential offenders.  It was focused on identifying offenders that officers had been unable to trace following their enquiries and supported the Council’s commitment to take robust action against fly tippers.


The Council have been promoting this primarily on social media and through its website with one of the videos attracting over 14,000 views, and it had also had some local press coverage. The hashtag had also been used across a range of other promotions and messages, including community litter-picking activity, the issuing of fixed penalty notices and court results.


In a supplementary question Councillor T. Collingham asked how many prosecutions had been issued in the last year.


Councillor Beck confirmed the Service was keen to improve on this area, but would respond with an answer in writing.


(6)  Councillor Tinsley asked with events for the launch event of Rotherham as the Children's capital of culture 2025 having commenced, would RMBC be looking to involve our twinned town Saint-Quentin in future events?


Councillor Sheppard responded and confirmed that in 2025, Rotherham would become the world’s first Children’s Capital of Culture.


The Children’s Capital of Culture programme would provide activities, opportunities, skills, training, and development for children and young people in Rotherham aged 0-25.


The Children’s Capital of Culture programme would always have Rotherham at its heart, whilst also having a regional, national, and international reach.


As the programme developed, this would include giving children and young people from Rotherham access to a rich and diverse range of opportunities through developing relationships and collaborations with other towns and cities, and if children wished for this to include St Quentin then that was something the Council would look to explore.


(7)  Councillor T. Collingham asked how many retrospective planning applications were submitted to the Council in the previous 2 years and what percentage of these were accepted?


Councillor Atkin explained “retrospective” planning applications were not recorded as a distinct category, as all applications followed the same process. However, a planning application may be received after a complaint about a development had been made and in the last 2 years 137 applications had been submitted following an enforcement investigation. 68% of these were subsequently granted planning permission.


Councillor Collingham asked if this detail could be forwarded to him in an email and Councillor Atkin confirmed he would forward on.


(8)  Councillor Baum-Dixon explained as a result of the recent storms, several houses in Anston had been damaged quite severely by trees on RMBC land falling into their properties. In every case, RMBC officers had been told by residents these trees were dangerous. He asked would the Council now finally listen to residents and adopt a more proactive approach to tree management in the Borough?


Councillor Sheppard explained the Tree Service had been made aware of 2 cases of fallen trees in the Anston area, which occurred during recent storms. In one case a tree fell onto a property damaging a garage and roof tiles at a property in the Anston area and the other a tree fell between 2 properties in the Parklands Avenue area. Both incidents have been attended to as part of the response to storm damage across the Borough over the last few weeks.


The Council appreciated that this was a particularly distressing time for the residents involved and unsettling for neighbouring residents and, therefore, the Council’s Tree Service and Countryside Management Service had been in communication with residents to reassure them of the safe management of the trees that neighbour properties in this area.


A full tree survey and inspection of trees in the area was undertaken in 2017 and works undertaken to remove any trees that were found to be failing in health alongside pruning works to ensure good management of the tree stock. In addition to the full survey, individual inspections had been undertaken where service requests had arisen throughout the intervening period. Trees close to those that failed had been visually inspected this week at the request of residents and showed no signs of weakness. The woodland areas were due for a further full arboricultural inspection later in 2022, however, the Service had brought this full inspection by an independent tree consultant forward to further reassure residents


Whilst the trees were found to be in good health with low risk of collapse, all trees, regardless of their age and size, had potential to fall, depending on the wind load and direction. Over the last 10 days the north of the country had seen unprecedented weather conditions with 3 separate storms causing issues from tree damage, localised flooding and property damage across the Borough and the county.


It was Council policy for tree surveys in woodlands (where they bordered urban areas) to be undertaken every 5 years and as such inspection was not due until later this year. However, given the recent issues experienced at this location the Council would bring forward a full woodland inspection within the coming weeks.


In a supplementary question Councillor Baum-Dixon asked with the distress caused by the trees falling if the tree survey to be undertaken could be more inclusive and include consultation with local residents.


Councillor Sheppard confirmed the survey details would be shared with local residents.


(9)  Councillor Burnett’s question to be responded to in writing.


(10)  Councillor T. Collingham’s question was withdrawn.


(11)  Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked could the Cabinet Member please advise on the number of active Rothercard users over the past 12 months?


Councillor Sheppard confirmed that in the 12 months period from 26th February, 2021 to 25th February, 2022, a total of 2,132 Rothercard applications were received.


Rothercards lasted up to 5 years and so a number of older cards would also be in use.


There was no current accurate figures of the total number of active Rothercard users over the past 12 months. There was a review of Rothercard underway which would look at the whole scheme.


In a supplementary question Councillor Bennett-Sylvester referred to the open forum arrangement of the Working Group and asked about the timeframe for progressing Working Group outcomes back to Council.


Councillor Sheppard confirmed the Working Group was still in its infancy and the contributions positive and aspirational.  The outcomes would initially be shared with Scrutiny with a view to having a Rothercard Scheme that was fit for purpose.


(12)  Councillor Whomersley’s question would be responded to in writing.


(13)  Councillor T. Collingham asked what measures were the Council taking to promote the new Highway code in Rotherham including new cyclist priorities and pedestrian priorities on crossings.


Councillor Beck explained the Council was part of the South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership. This organisation promoted Road safety Education, Training and Publicity (ETP) activity on the Council’s behalf. The Partnership included the 4 local authorities, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, South Yorkshire Police and the SYSRP central team based at the Lifewise Centre in Hellaby.


The Council had also used its roadside variable message signs to display reminders to drivers, signposting them to the .GOV website for further information.


In a supplementary question Councillor T. Collingham asked if the Council could make better use of social media.


Councillor Beck confirmed social media was already being used on platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc.


(14)  Councillor Tinsley referred to CCTV cameras being currently monitored by South Yorkshire Police in a control room over in Doncaster, where over 300 cameras were expected to be monitored. With a rise in anti-social behaviour and crime in places like Maltby, would the Council bring CCTV camera monitoring back in-house and under a manageable amount.


Councillor Alam confirmed the control room in Doncaster monitored around 100 cameras from within the Rotherham area.  However, there were a number of additional cameras, such as re-deployable cameras, that were monitored locally by Council staff and Police partners.


The staff in the Doncaster monitoring suite represented South Yorkshire Police’s commitment to CCTV as they paid for the staff within the suite who monitored the feeds and then liaised in real-time with officers on the ground, directing resources as required. This full control room capability could not be replicated in Rotherham alone without significant additional revenue and capital costs being incurred, and the Council would not want to see the overall level of CCTV coverage reduced.


The Council was investing in the CCTV system with a £420,000 improvement project now underway, including the additional £250,000 of capital and £60,000 of revenue budget proposed at today’s Council meeting. This investment would deliver a modernised system and increase the coverage and quality of CCTV images, alongside delivering wider capabilities. The Council would also retain its existing ability to monitor and direct cameras in live time through the Control Room which already existed in Rotherham, which could be used during any major incident or significant event.


Finally, the transformation work currently underway as a result of the investment would significantly improve access to CCTV images for local Council Officers. It would also link the current re-deployable CCTV to the Council’s main CCTV system, improving access and delivering efficiencies.


In a supplementary question Councillor Tinsley referred to the overall monitoring across South Yorkshire and the conflict of displays for areas such as Maltby when the cameras were not monitored live.  When queries were made about incidents information was not always forthcoming and asked if this could be kept under review.


Councillor Alam was aware of the concerns of local Elected Members in this area in terms of anti-social behaviour and crime. He was also aware that a robust partnership action plan was in place which was being jointly delivered by the Council, the Police and other partners. He had asked officers to ensure that they engaged continuously with local Elected Members to keep them informed and respond to any community concerns.


(15)  Councillor Hoddinott asked could the Cabinet Member update her on the progress of Rotherham's Levelling Up bids? 


Councillor Lelliott advised the Council were successful in 2 out of 3 bids that were made to the Levelling Up Fund bringing in a total of almost £40million. (Nationally only a third of bids were successful)


The Town Centre bid would align with our other key investments to transform the Town Centre into a vibrant place to live and spend time. The first tranche of the £19.5million grant had been received, and the Council was progressing on the projects it would fund in the Town Centre which included improvements to connect the major developments taking place in the town over the next few years such as:-


·        A new bridge across the River Don linking the new Riverside residential quarter to Don Street.

·        A new ‘river walk’ connecting Riverside Residential Quarter site on Westgate across Main Street and to Bridge Street.


For the Leisure Economy and Skills bid this would deliver improvements to major attractions and support new skills projects. Again, the first tranche of the £19,990,000 grant funding has now arrived and will deliver:-


·        Restoration of the stable block at Wentworth Woodhouse as part of the wider masterplan.

·        Restoration of the grammar school building at Maltby Academy.


These projects would make a significant and lasting impact on the leisure and culture offer in Rotherham along with developing the skills base that would support the sector to grow.


In a supplementary question Councillor Hoddinott expressed her disappointment for bids for Dinnington and Wath missing out and asked if the Council would  try harder for these areas in the next round of funding.


Councillor Lelliott confirmed the Council were very committed to securing funding and were already preparing bids for the next round of funding.


(16)  Councillor T. Collingham referred to pest problems being rife across estates and shopping areas in Thurcroft and asked what were the Council doing to tackle the issues?


Councillor Beck confirmed officers had reviewed the number of pest control jobs in Thurcroft and there were currently only 3 active Service requests for the Council’s Pest Control Service in that area, all of which related to domestic properties. He asked if Councillor Collingham was aware of wider problems then he was urged to report those to the service.


(17)  Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked could the Cabinet Member please report on the Children’s Capital of Culture launch and activities during last week’s half term holiday?


Councillor Sheppard confirmed the Children’s Capital of Culture launch festival was a 10 day festival of activities that commenced on Monday 21st February. The festival included:-


·        The inaugural Rotherham Skate and Arts Festival, a 3 day event in the Town Centre featuring a pop-up skate park, free creative workshops, live bands and DJs, and street food.

·        An art installation, Robot Selfie, was sited in the outdoor covered market, where it created an 8 x 10 metre mural featuring local children and young people.

·        A temporary exhibition at Clifton Park Museum, which would run from 21st February – 29th May, that told the story of Children’s Capital of Culture and shares memories of youth and childhood in Rotherham.

·        Two performances at Rotherham Civic Theatre of Truth to Power Café, an acclaimed, internationally-touring theatre performance. The Rotherham edition of the show featured local young people aged 14-to-25 performing and was livestreamed to a global audience.

·        Grimm & Co’s delivery of a 5 day story festival for children, young people, and families at their new pop-up premises in the Old Town Hall site.

·        The commissioning of a new neon art installation, created by writer Ian McMillan and artist Patrick Murphy in collaboration with local young people.


The launch festival was planned and delivered in collaboration with a cohort of Trainee Young Producers: local 16-to-25 year olds who hde been employed part-time to help deliver the Children’s Capital of Culture project. The Trainee Young Producers posts were funded through the UK Community Renewal Fund (UKCRF) and Arts Council England (ACE).


The Festival launched the journey towards Rotherham becoming the world’s first Children’s Capital of Culture in 2025.


Early indications in relation to engagements have been positive with:-


-         Over 1,000 people attending the 3 day Skate and Art Festival, the spray/stencil workshops were fully booked and the skate area and pro-demos proved very popular, despite some challenging weather conditions.

-         220 people attended the For Truth to Power Café over the course of the 2 performances. 7 Rotherham young people performed as part of the show. Another 50 Rotherham young people had their work published in a Truth to Power Cafe publication which was issued to accompany the show.

-         1,233 visitors attended the Museum during last week’s half-term following the opening of the temporary exhibition.


In a supplementary question Councillor Bennett-Sylvester welcomed the wide ranging activity but asked about accessibility and inclusivity of activities with some of the paid services.


Councillor Sheppard pointed out only the Civic Theatre had a paid event but was proud to see the joy that was brought to the children across the Borough and how the celebrations were thoroughly enjoyed.


(18)  Councillor T. Collingham’s question was withdrawn.


(19)  Councillor Tinsley referred to before the elections last year how Maltby, along with a few other Wards, was unable to host by-elections due to Covid legislation. Due to the Ward being unrepresented he asked could the Councillor allowance that was not allocated be released to make improvements locally.


Councillor Allen explained the Community Leadership Fund was allocated to individual Elected Members and not the Ward. On this basis, there was no provision to re-allocate an individual Member’s budget to the Ward when there was a Councillor vacancy.


In a supplementary question Councillor Tinsley believed that if the funds could be reallocated it could be used to support projects such as Coronation Park and asked if the decision could be reconsidered.


Councillor Allen confirmed this could not be reconsidered but would ask that the Cabinet Member with responsibility to contact Councillor Tinsley to see what could be done.


(20)  Councillor T. Collingham was pleased to hear of the recent approval of projects for the Towns and Villages Fund but asked when could places such as his own ward in Thurcroft and Wickersley South expect to hear of the progression to the next stage in the second phase.


Councillor Lelliott confirmed the first phase of the Towns and Villages Fund was approved by Cabinet in January 2022, and design, consultation and delivery was underway in these 6 schemes. The Cabinet report recommended that the second phase of the programme be approved by Cabinet in Summer 2022, and Officers would be undertaking due diligence on all of the second phase projects before this time.


Members would be kept up to date through the current Neighbourhood Working structures such as Ward briefings. Projects would be undertaken on a rolling basis, so when the first schemes have been delivered, further capacity would be allocated to Phase 2 projects.


(21)  Councillor Whomersley’s question would be responded to in writing.