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 submitted a question asking what amendments were being made for the second Levelling Up Fund bid for Dinnington and if the Council was on track for the deadline?
As Councillor Lelliott had left the meeting at this point, a written answer would be provided.
(2) Councillor Mills asked how many people had signed up to become a Snow Warden last winter and how effective the service was?
Councillor Beck stated that the Council’s Snow Warden service was a huge success with 572 volunteers to date. This was a significant increase on numbers in previous years which had been the result of a drive for more volunteers.
The Council’s Snow Wardens were volunteers who gave their own time over and above Council services, and the aim was to support them, so it was not a matter of measuring their performance. However, Councillor Beck did believe the service has been very effective in local areas in supporting the overall response to wintry weather. Councillor Beck wanted to put on record his thanks to the large number of residents who were already signed up as Snow Wardens, for their hard work and support and he encouraged others to get involved and help their local community in the future.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Mills stated that he and other Conservative Members had applied to be Snow Wardens in November 2021 and had never received their packs. He asked if this was another failure of the Labour-run Council and how many more failures would be delivered?
Councillor Beck apologised for
the failure to deliver the packs but stated that had he been made
aware of the matter sooner, i.e. before Spring, he could have
addressed the matter. He encouraged any Members that wanted to
become Snow Wardens to email him and he would pick the matter
(3) Councillor Griffin stated that he was of the understanding that South Yorkshire’s bid for funding in relation to bus service improvements – cheaper tickets; moving to simpler ticketing; and new buses – had been rejected by the Conservative Government. He asked what the Leader expected to be the impact and consequences of that decision?
The Leader expressed huge disappointment in the fact that the bid for the South Yorkshire Bus Improvement Plan had been rejected by the Government.
This meant Rotherham would not benefit from:-
- a cap on daily and weekly fares, access to more cashless ticketing to create an easy to use system.
- it would not be able to fund the plans for a wider network of bus priority measures leaving buses continuing to be stuck in traffic and making services less reliable.
- the Borough would have fewer new bus shelters with real time information, less support for new on-demand services and no funding for free bus travel for under 18 year olds.?
and all that together meant that South Yorkshire and Rotherham particularly, would continue to fall further behind other parts of the country.
It was the fundamental problem of this kind of short term competitive bidding process that the Government seemed addicted to – one place wins, another has to lose. It was what happened when politicians saw this all as some sort of political game to be played, rather than a matter of ensuring that people received the decent basic services that everyone should be entitled to.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Griffin asked what impact this would have on the bus franchising proposals?
The Leader explained that there would be no immediate impact on the bus franchising proposals as that work was now underway. It could be an indirect consequence of the rejected bid that franchising was now more likely but the Leader would continue to keep Members updated on any developments.
(4) Councillor Whomersley stated that the new solar powered bins on Dinnington High Street were overflowing and asked if there was a problem with the bins and if so, had it been fixed?
Councillor Beck understood that there have been some intermittent problems with the alerts on a small number of solar bins, which meant that they had not always been sending alerts when they should have been, and this may have affected Dinnington High Street. He explained that this problem had now been rectified, but to let him know if there were any further problems.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Whomersley stated that he had spoken to an employee who emptied the bins and it was stated by this employee that he had received no training on how to empty the new bins nor did he have access to them. It was asked whether it would be a good idea to provide the training and a key for access?
Councillor Beck explained that awareness training had been provided on how to empty the new bins, however, it was not complicated and not that different to what was used before. Councillor Beck stated that he wished to speak to Councillor Whomersley about the matter after the meeting.
(5) Councillor Whomersley stated that he had heard the Council was looking at the potential to bring leisure centre facilities into Dinnington and asked whether this was possible with Maltby and Aston leisure facilities in the surrounding areas?
Councillor Sheppard explained that, as part of the development of the Levelling Up Fund bid for Dinnington, and in light of representations from the local area, there had been some consideration given to the possibility of a new leisure centre. However, it was advised that there was no viable plan for any such facility at the moment.
The cost of a new leisure centre along the lines of those at St Ann’s or at Aston would be around £10m in capital (Sport England, 2021) and £1.3m in revenue (based on the current contract). In addition any new leisure centre would be likely to have financial implications for the Council’s current PFI contract for leisure centres.
Whilst it was technically possible, those costs in totality would seem to place any such development well beyond the available resources, even if Levelling Up Funds could be secured, without an overwhelming amount of long-term private sector funding.
(6) Councillor Mills asked whether the Cabinet Member would support reducing the speed limit outside Ravenfield Primary School to 30 miles per hour in the interests of safety?
Councillor Beck stated that there were no proposals to date to lower the speed limit on Moor Lane North, outside of the Primary School, to 30 miles per hour.
There were a number of existing measures on Moor Lane North, outside Ravenfield Primary School, that had been put in place to address road safety over the last few years including:
· ‘School 20’ signs, which flash up at pupil arrival and leaving times to improve awareness of school activity;?
· Billy and Belinda (children shaped) bollards to highlight the presence of the school to passing motorists; and
· a Clearway Traffic Regulation Order on the School Zig-Zag lines to discourage parking directly outside the school gates.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Mills stated that the 20 miles per hour speed sign no longer worked. He questioned whether it would take the death of a child to get the speed limit reduced?
Councillor Beck confirmed he would follow up on the issue of the road sign. In terms of the speed limit, Councillor Beck confirmed that he would take Councillor Mills’ question as a proposal and would discuss the matter with officers and provide feedback.
(7) Councillor Baker-Rogers asked that given the unprecedented rise in energy prices, what advice about and access to home energy saving measures was the Council giving to residents?
Councillor Sheppard explained that the Council offered advice to residents through the “Community Energy Rotherham” page on the Council’s website and social media. This was a scheme that the current administration had introduced over the last 2 years. The service provided advice on what energy saving measures people could take, and what to do if your supplier was to become insolvent, as well as advice on debt management.
The Community Energy Team at the Council also delivered advice on a one-to-one basis to individual residents. The impact on residents of the rising energy prices was evident as demand for the service has tripled in the last month.? Now that COVID restrictions had been removed, a programme of events was being developed to deliver Energy Saving Workshops throughout the Borough to residents. Residents would be informed through social media, the Council website and Council information portals and would be able to turn up on the day or register for one-to-one support sessions.
Additionally, advice had also been sent out to Members through the Ward update. A useful information leaflet had also been distributed a month prior to the meeting which signposted residents that were struggling with energy costs and other costs to relevant help.
In terms of energy prices, the best advice the Council could offer was for residents to remain on the standard rate and be protected by the Price Cap as this was currently the cheapest available option, although it was expected that the price cap would increase again in October 2022. It was expected that many more residents would struggle with the choice between eating and heating in Winter 2022 and the Council would continue to do what it could to help.
(8) Councillor Mills explained that the Council had received £10,000 to install a zebra crossing on Flash Lane, however, the residents of Bramley were yet to see the money or the zebra crossing. Councillor Mills asked where it was?
Councillor Beck explained that the funding contribution received by the Council for Flash Lane dating back to a 2005 planning agreement related to the provision of improved pedestrian crossing facilities, and did not specifically require the provision of a zebra crossing.
In 2011, the monies received were invested in the installation of 2 pedestrian tactile drop crossing points and conversion of grass verge to hard surfacing adjacent to the playground.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Mills stated that Bramley Parish Council and residents were under the impression that a zebra crossing was going to be installed. Given that it was over 15 years since the planning agreement, could the residents have the zebra crossing?
Councillor Beck reiterated that the money had been spent for its intended purpose. In terms of any additional road safety measures, such as a zebra crossing, proposals could be made through the Road Safety Programme and details on how to do this would be circulated to Members in the coming weeks.
(9) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked what was happening to celebrate the 600th birth anniversary of Archbishop Thomas Rotherham in 2023?
Councillor Sheppard explained that to celebrate the anniversary, Rotherham Council’s Museum, Arts and Heritage Service would research the Rotherham Archives and Museum Collections for items related to the Archbishop Thomas Rotherham and create a digital programme and small exhibition at Clifton Park Museum with items from the collection. As with all events, local school children would be invited to attend and learn more about their town.
In his supplementary, Councillor Bennett-Sylvester stated that this was a story that needed telling loudly and proudly and that the celebrations needed to be promoted.
Councillor Sheppard agreed that local history needed to be celebrated and passed onto future generations so he would make sure plans were progressing.
(10) Councillor Hoddinott asked, with the good news that HS2 would no longer cut through parts of Rotherham, was it known when the Government would finally end the project and remove safeguarding from properties?
Councillor Beck explained that the answer to the question was, shamefully, no; it was not known when the Government would finally end the HS2 project and finally relieve Rotherham’s residents of the blight inflicted on their properties and on their lives.
The position in the Government’s Integrated Rail Plan was that the route would remain safeguarded until, at earliest, the review of rail connectivity between Sheffield and Leeds was complete. There was no timescale yet set for this.
The Leader had written to the Government highlighting the continuing blight resulting from the safeguarding and to seek clarity of timescales for the withdrawal of that safeguarding of the HS2 alignment.
Councillor Beck explained that many residents in his Ward of Wales were impacted by this issue with people having no certainty over their future and not being able to get on with their lives. He reiterated the Leader’s statements to Government that this must end soon.
In her supplementary, Councillor Hoddinott expressed concern at the lack of any progress and asked for confirmation that the Council would continue to press for the removal of the safeguarding?
Councillor Beck confirmed that they absolutely would and that they would not drop the issue because it was in the interests of Rotherham Residents. The Council had also submitted formal representations to the Transport Committee in Parliament, outlining the impact the safeguarding of the properties was having in Rotherham.
(11) Councillor Thompson asked what the actual figure of CSE victims in Rotherham was since 2017?
Councillor Cusworth stated that since the beginning of 2017 to 8th April, 2022, there had been 584 individual children and young people that CYPS had worked with where it was believed that there was a risk of CSE.
This did not of course mean that all of those children had been abused, and certainly not that they had made a disclosure.
To give a little further context, nearly half of those children were regarded as being at “low” risk, with 78 considered at “high risk”.
Of course, there might also be children who did not come into contact with services.
As Members would be aware, the Council would continue to regularly publish the number of children being supported through the Evolve Service as part of the Council Plan performance reports, so Members would have easy access to that information.
In her supplementary question, Councillor Thompson explained that she had now been given 3 different responses to the same question and whilst she understood the difficulties in recording the number of victims accurately, it was not acceptable to have unreliable data in 2022. She asked what was going to be done to sort that out?
Councillor Cusworth stated that
she did not believe that the data was unreliable. Some young people
were subject to more than one risk assessment which could confuse
figures. The figures were the most up-to-date available.
(12) Councillor Thompson asked where the up-to-date CSE action plan, that had been aligned to the recommendations from the Jay and Casey reports, was and could access to it be provided?
Councillor Cusworth explained that when the Council discussed the Conservative groups motion at Council in November, the Council asked the Independent Chair of the Safeguarding Board to review the Partnership’s Strategy to Tackle and Prevent Child Exploitation. That strategy, supported by an operational action plan, was the relevant document in terms of responding to CSE in Rotherham. It was the responsibility of the multi-agency Child Exploitation Delivery Group. The strategy could be found on their website.
Those documents were not a direct response to the recommendations of the Jay and Casey reports, which were of course the subject of the Council’s Intervention and Improvement Plan over a number of years. More information about that work was still available on the Council’s website.
The first part of the review that was asked for had been conducted by the independent reviewers and had provided substantial assurance, and the second part, reviewing the Strategy, was now underway. Once that review was complete in the next few weeks Councillor Cusworth suggested that the documents be referred to Members for formal consideration through Scrutiny, if that was what Members would wish.
In her supplementary, Councillor Thompson stated that some of the problems identified by Professor Jay within South Yorkshire Police were still problems today as shown by the IOPC report and SYP’s own strategic profile. Without proper assurance, it could not be guaranteed that the problems identified by Professor Jay within the Council had not either continued or re-emerged. Referring back to the motion from November Council, Councillor Thompson claimed that the Council had stated there were no problems and that it was a whitewash. Referring back to her original question, she asked where the up-to-date CSE plan was as it was showing an incomplete online?
Councillor Cusworth explained that substantial assurances had been given by the independent review in stage one of the report. When the Commissioner’s left Rotherham they were confident that the actions taken had led to the required improvements across Children and Young People’s Services and Scrutiny etc. Councillor Cusworth reiterated that Scrutiny was the best route for the plan to be accessed as it was a working document.
(13) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked what measures were in place to ensure tenants with furnished tenancies had their furnishings regularly replaced?
Councillor Brookes explained the process involved with furnished tenancies. Once a tenant requested a furnished package, an officer would arrange to visit the tenant within the first 2 to 3 weeks of the start of the tenancy to discuss their furnished homes package and complete an inventory check.
Each year, around the 12 months anniversary of the tenancy start date, the Furnished Homes Team visited the tenant to discuss the package, check the items and replace items where necessary.
However, tenants could contact the Furnished Homes Team at any point during their tenancy by email at email@example.com or telephone 01709 382121.
In his supplementary, Councillor Bennett-Sylvester stated that some residents, particularly elderly and vulnerable residents, were not getting the required updates and he was concerned that some were slipping through the net. Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked if could discuss the matter further with the Cabinet Member outside of the meeting?
Councillor Brookes stated that she would be happy to take the matter forward outside of the meeting.
(14) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked what was the total collective amount paid in charges for Rothercare on top of their rents by Council tenants who had not been in receipt of the Rothercare Service in the 2021/22 financial year?
Councillor Roche explained that the Council allocated a number of council homes as ‘Rothercare properties’, where the rent included provision of Rothercare, at a cost of £3.10 a week, whether residents chose to use it or not. It was a similar principle to the Neighbourhood Centres connected to many of the Council’s bungalow complexes.
Most of the tenants received help through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit that, therefore, covered some or all of the cost of the Service. There were 8,228 properties in Rotherham that had Rothercare equipment installed but only 1,360 paid the full cost. The Council did not collate the details of those tenants not choosing to participate in the Rothercare Service. Councillor Roche could not, therefore, tell Councillor Bennett-Sylvester how many properties were not using it, or any associated financial information.
In his supplementary, Councillor Bennett-Sylvester expressed concern that the answer was not known. He asked whether it would be a good idea to plan forward and find out how many people were using the Service in order to be prepared for an increase in demand for what was a very good Service?
Councillor Roche responded to the acknowledgement that it was a good Service by informing that it had dealt with 348,000 separate calls. There were plans to move the Service away from landlines and Councillor Roche agreed to discuss with the Strategic Director whether it would be possible to write out to all of the concerned properties to ascertain whether or not the Service was being used.
(15) Councillor Elliott noted that there was a public consultation on the proposed cycle lane on Main Street and Westgate and asked whether the Cabinet Member would guarantee that the results of the consultation would be acted upon and not ignored?
Councillor Beck responded by stating that he was happy to confirm that the results of the consultation would be fully considered in informing how or if the scheme was progressed. He encouraged everyone to participate in the consultation which would close on 24th April.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Elliott stated that the proposal was so wrong in many aspects: it was a major reconfiguration of a junction that had recently been done; it would make access into Rotherham Town Centre even more difficult at a time when it was already struggling and make Westgate a back water for what, a couple of cyclists a day? He stated that public opinion was very much against the scheme and that there were many off-road options available to cyclists and money could be invested in those rather than wasting the money on this scheme. Councillor Elliott asked Councillor Beck if he would do the right thing and scrap the scheme in its entirety?
Councillor Beck reiterated that all of the responses from the consultation would be taken into account when making a decision on how to progress.
(16) Councillor Tinsley explained that with the sudden closure of Queens Corner Medical Centre, over 1,000 patients found themselves without a doctor in Maltby and asked what support was being given to assist patients in finding another local doctor?
Councillor Roche explained that this was an important matter for the Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group and that he was aware that the concerns had been raised directly to them. This was a matter for the CCG to resolve and resolve as soon as possible. Councillor Roche had been informed by the CCG that they had contacted all patients in order to find a new practice. More information on the support that was being provided had been requested.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Tinsley asked if communication between the Council and the CCG could be improved?
Councillor Roche explained that this was a matter for the CCG but confirmed that the CCG informed him that all patients had been written to and advised on how to register with an alternative practice – there were 3 in Maltby, Manor Field Surgery, Braithwell Road Surgery and Blyth Road Medical Centre, although some patients who lived further afield may find more local practices through the nhs.uk website.
Patients had been advised about how they could access any urgent medication requirements via NHS 111 while their registration with a new practice was completed.
Councillor Roche also explained that the reason for such closures was due to a national shortage of GPs and he expressed concerns over the possible privatisation of the NHS.
(17) Councillor Tinsley explained that residents on Strauss Crescent, Maltby, had been served with enforcement letters because waste had been flytipped onto vacant land that once had garages on it. He asked whether the Council would work with residents to clear the land rather than seek to serve enforcement letters?
Councillor Beck explained that the land in question was privately owned by a number of residents of Strauss Crescent and the Council did not have any responsibility for maintaining the land. As a result of a complaint received by the Council, the Council did, out of good will, undertake works to clear the land, to support the residents in fulfilling their obligations as land owners. Having done so, the Council sent letters to the land owners to remind them of their responsibilities.
In his supplementary, Councillor Tinsley explained that he had not noticed any difference and that waste had not been removed. He asked if that could be followed up?
Councillor Beck restated that the land was not the responsibility of the Council. The Council had acted, out of good will, to clear the waste and if further waste had accumulated, the letter previously mentioned clearly set out the land owners’ responsibilities.
(18) Councillor Tinsley asked that with 7 months to go to this year’s Remembrance Sunday parades, had there been any progress on arrangements for Parish Councils or local groups wanting to close roads locally and arrangements over traffic management?
Councillor Sheppard explained that all actions in the motion to Council on 29th September, 2021, which included matters in relation to traffic were completed in time for last year’s Remembrance Sunday Parade and would continue again this year.
In his supplementary statement, Councillor Tinsley thanked Councillor Sheppard for his clarification that the Council would pay for the road closures. He was sure the Town and Parish Councils would appreciate the gesture.
Councillor Sheppard confirmed that the Council had agreed to waive the costs associated with road closures for up to one parade in each Ward to allow residents to pay their respects on Remembrance Sunday.
(19) Councillor Tinsley asked whether there were any plans to change the Mayoral car to something a little bit greener?
The Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Working explained that Rotherham Council had produced a Climate Action Plan which was acknowledged as being the best in South Yorkshire. The Council would of course therefore look at all options for the Mayoral car when it got to the point of being uneconomical, whether that be electric, hybrid or whatever else was around at the time.
(20) Councillor Tinsley had submitted a question asking whether parking enforcement was prioritised in Rotherham over areas such as Maltby?
As Councillor Lelliott had left the meeting at this point, a written answer would be provided.
(21) Councillor Monk asked what the Council was doing to support children from disadvantaged families over the Easter and Summer holidays?
Councillor Cusworth explained that there were a wide range of activities for disadvantaged families during the Easter holidays and a full list of open access opportunities for disadvantaged families was previously shared with Members in March. It had also been covered in the Members Briefing on the 5th April and promoted on the Council’s social media platforms.
The Easter activities were in addition to the existing targeted support that was in place throughout the year to 1,326 families and, included in that, 2,917 children currently being supported by Early Help, and to the free school meal vouchers that the Council continued to provide this holiday.
Councillor Cusworth explained that she was looking forward to visiting Coleridge School and Wath Academy to see the activities that would be taking place and the healthy meals that would be part of the session.
Further examples of things happening this easter include:
· Free workshops for families at Clifton Park Museum, which tied in with the latest exhibition for Children’s Capital of Culture
· U DO IT Dance @Thrybergh Academy ages 5-6y years
· Nova City – parkour, dance, aerial work, tricks and flips for children aged 6-16 years
· Computer Xplorers – coding, robotics, game design plus a Minecraft adventurer challenge for children aged 5-16 years
· Rotherham BMX – are offering football and BMX sessions. The perfect combination for ages 8-16 years
· Rotherham Theatres- on the 19th, 20th and 21stof April there would be free Arts Award training residentials at the theatre
With regards to the summer programme, this would be planned and developed once the Easter programme had concluded and evaluated.