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 Tarmey asked: Does the administration plan to undertake work to ensure that all Council-owned homes are carbon neutral by 2030 as part of its commitment to achieving “net-zero”; where it is not possible to make individual buildings carbon neutral due to their construction, what measures will be implemented to ensure that neighbourhoods achieve carbon neutral status?


As Councillor Brookes was not present at the meeting, a written response would be provided to Councillor Tinsley.


2)    Councillor Jones asked: Can you please confirm if under the Environmental Protection Act Part 2A, the Council has complied with its legal duty to list and designate all contaminated land within its boundaries?


Councillor Beck explained that where the Council is aware of, and has the necessary information to, it does undertake the listing and designation of contaminated land.


In his supplementary, Councillor Jones stated that the Council has a duty under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to inspects its area for land which in the past may have been used in a way that has led to contamination and address any potential issues that may arise from this. It also says that if remediation works have been enforced at any point, the area of land affected by the contaminants identified will be placed on the Local Authorities public register. In 1990, the Council’s Environmental Health Unit undertook such tests and found that the Droppingwell Landfill Site had what are now classed as fatal levels of heavy metals on the surface. In 1993, the Planning Inspectorate also enforced the remediation of Phase 1 of the site. It is the Council’s legal responsibility to do this, not the Environment Agency. Why was it not added to the Council’s register at that point and when does the Council plan to become legally compliant with the act by reclassifying the land?


Councillor Beck explained that the Council was aware of this situation and were aware that the statutory guidance in relation to contaminated land states that land should be registered under Part 2A where no suitable alternative exists. In the case of Droppingwell, the land is subject to an Environmental Permit and regulated by the Environment Agency.


3)    Councillor Jones asked: At the OSMB meeting in January the former Assistant Director said that permission had been given for Grange Landfill Limited to  re-drill BH5; it was not a requirement of the permit but was desirable to protect public health. Is this statement correct and have they supplied a date for the works?


Councillor Beck explained that that is correct. The Council is not currently aware of any planned start date.


In his supplementary question, Councillor Jones stated that under the Environmental Protection Act Part 2a, it states that contaminated land is classified as land that appears to the Local Authority in whose area it is situated to be in such a condition by reasons such as substances in, on or under the land that can cause significant harm or pollution of controlled water has been or is likely to be caused. In the operator’s compliance assessment reports on progress at the site over the last 12 months, the Environment Agency has continuously reminded the operator of the requirement to reinstate Borehole Number 5 prior to the licence being varied.


This led to 2 conflicting questions: firstly, did the former Director mislead the Council in an attempt to gain an agreement and if it was believed that this piece of land was not required to be added to the register because the Environment Agency are regulating it, which is not the legal requirement, why is permission being given for a totally pointless borehole to be drilled on public land?


Councillor Beck stated that these concerns had been raised with the Environment Agency previously and the Council would continue to raise these issues. Many of the points raised in the question needed to be raised with the Environment Agency. The Council had raised concerns about Borehole 5 previously. The Council would continue to direct those questions to the Environment Agency.


4)    Councillor C. Carter asked: The children’s play area at Rother Valley Country Park is extremely muddy, especially at the entrances and underneath play equipment, such as swings. This has been the case, even during periods of drier weather. What action is the Council taking to resolve this?


Councillor Sheppard explained that the Council did recognise it can get muddy as with all outdoor play areas. The Council will review and consider any further actions that could be taken. Maintenance work is mainly done out of season so children can access the facilities in the summer when the weather is generally better. The Council can, however, make sure the path at the entrance is fit for purpose and look at the amount of bark around the individual items.


In her supplementary, Councillor C. Carter stated that she had been to the play area recently and there were no rubber mats in place; there was no tarmac on the entrances and it was basically just a mud pit. This could be quite dangerous for children. When could action be taken to review that as a matter of urgency?


Councillor Sheppard stated that he would take that away and get back to Councillor Carter. The Council obviously wanted to make sure areas were safe for children to play in so the matter would be looked into. 

5)    Councillor Miro asked: Can the people of Waverley please have an explanation as to what is delaying the adoption of Highfield Lane by the Council? I drive down the road regularly and it looks to be of a good standard to me, I would like to know what is holding the process up, and how I can facilitate its progression if possible or needed. 


Councillor Beck explained that the process was that the developer had to ask the Council to adopt the road and as yet, the developer had not asked the Council to adopt this road. Once the Council receives the request, it will be actioned. 


6)    Councillor Miro asked: Councillors will be aware of Rotherham’s Muslim community frustrations with our burial site, including complaints about landscaping and orientation of the graves. With the new Muslim area being prepared, will the Council reassure me that the community’s concerns regarding future capacity, and a clearly marked Muslim area (as in Sheffield for example) will be considered?


Councillor Alam explained that the Council are aware of some issues raised by the Muslim community and the works currently being undertaken by Dignity to address those issues. This includes works to install a significant number of pre-cast tombstones, tarmacking pathways, drainage works, and landscaping. The request to have a clearly defined Muslim area will be put to Dignity to make sure they are abided by.


In his supplementary, Councillor Miro explained that one thing that had also been requested was a parking space close to the grave sites because of the needs of elderly and disabled people. Could this be thought about as well?


Councillor Alam agreed to raise the matter with Dignity.


7)    Councillor Jones asked: At the last Council meeting, the Deputy Leader stated in reply to a question from Councillor Hoddinott, “that one Councillor had still not supplied a valid DBS check” and was subsequently allowed to name that Councillor in public. Can you confirm if that statement was factually correct?


The Deputy Leader explained that on Page 30 of the agenda pack for the meeting recorded her reply to Councillor Hoddinott’s question from the last meeting. The Member in question has not and did not complete the Council’s DBS checking process and given that the Member is no longer a Councillor, the issue has been closed.


In his supplementary, Councillor Jones stated that during his time as a Ward Councillor he had had 2 enhanced DBS checks and 3 standard checks. The last one was the hardest to comply with because some people, for different reasons, either do not want or do not have a digital footprint. This led ex-Councillor Hague to have difficulties so before the last meeting, which incidentally was only 2 meetings after one of the Labour group, he was unjustly named in a public arena. It was unjust because Councillor Jones had witnessed not a standard DBS but a notarized DBS that is better than the one asked for by the Council, and signed in the presence of a solicitor, being handed to the Monitoring Officer prior to the meeting. He asked the Deputy Leader to explain why the Monitoring Officer did not stop her from making a liableness statement and did she now believe that she owed ex-Councillor Hague and the public of Rotherham an apology for misleading them? 


The Deputy Leader stated that it was to his credit that Councillor Jones was defending his former colleague and friend. She confirmed that Councillor Hague did provide a copy of a DBS check immediately prior to the last Council meeting but that check had not gone through Council processes. Due guidance was taken on whether the Member could be named and that is what the Deputy Leader did.


8)    Councillor Jones asked: At the last Council meeting we agreed to support the re-finance option for Forge Island. Can you give the exact reason the preferred partner gave for not financing the project themselves?


The Leader provided some context to the question. The preferred partner referenced was normally Muse, the development partner and there had never been a suggestion that Muse would be providing the funding for the Scheme themselves. Part of the original contract was that Muse went out to the market to secure a financier and the deal around the finance would depend on market conditions at the time. This financier invests in a range of long term investment over a long period of time. It was, therefore, incorrect to interpret what had happened as a reflection on the Forge Island scheme or its profitability.


What happened was that the investor, looking at the whole range of investments in front of them, specifically around Government gilt yields, which was the safest place to put long term investments, shifted. The terms on those were shifting day by day at that point. Their view, therefore, was that they were not able to put as much money in because they could get better returns across their portfolio from other investments.


The Council considered whether taking the money that was available for that financier could be done by taking additional money from the public sector but for a number of reasons that was not possible. In the end, the Council have chosen the best value option by putting up the loan upfront. This would save the taxpayer over the period of time of the Forge Island Scheme, tens of millions of pounds.


In his supplementary, Councillor Jones asked, if the finance arrangement did not stack up for private finance, it led him to believe that at some point in the future the costs would not stack up for the public purse. He stated that he did support most but not all of the project. However, he asked the Leader to confirm that, after the debacle of the Riverside Buildings and Dignity contracts, that suitable penalties around delays and substandard construction have been added and that the usual tactic of people bidding low and then coming back for more money to finish the project is covered off in the contract?


The Leader explained that the risk around the building contract sat with Muse. Their risk was around building the Scheme on time and building it within the agreed budget.

The Leader restated that the change in the financing was nothing to do with the profitability or the amount of money sitting behind the Forge Island Scheme. It was a reflection on the fact that an institutional investor who could chose to invest in any number of products across the market, at that moment in time, wanted places they could get a better return on their money. That is what led to the change of plan and the Leader believed this had been good for the Council and for the taxpayer.

9)    Councillor Jones asked: In the last month we have seen yet more businesses leave the town centre because of the lack of footfall causing financial difficulties for traders. Can you please explain what support the Council is supplying to town centre traders to offset these difficulties?

As Councillor Lelliott was not present at the meeting, a written response would be provided to Councillor Jones.


10) Councillor A. Carter asked: Councillor C. Carter and I have consistently raised the issue of the ‘Black Path’ in Brinsworth in both CAP meetings and in full Council meetings, at least over the past year. Why did it take until someone’s property was set on fire before additional funding was released to help take proactive measures to tackle the issue?


Councillor Alam explained the matter had been discussed previously and Council staff have been working to address the issues related to the ‘Black Path’ since November 2021. They have taken a range of actions since then including working with anyone identified as committing anti-social behaviour alongside CCTV, options to close the path, improved lighting and regular patrols.


The additional funding referred to is funding from the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit and managed by the Safer Rotherham Partnership but is limited and so has to be targeted. The first location for these additional resources to be deployed was the Maltby area to tackle anti-social behaviour and when available have been deployed to the Brinsworth area.


In his supplementary, Councillor A. Carter asked how he could get access to the Violence Reduction Unit funding because he had raised it at every CAP meeting for at least a year and it had been raised in the Council meeting as stated. It seemed the wrong way round to wait to take action until after someone’s property had been set on fire. He asked the Cabinet Member what his suggestion would be in getting funding in advance for other issues as residents were quite rightly concerned about properties being set on fire and other anti-social behaviour? This was despite the efforts of Ward Councillors in funding things like the youth shelters, security and securing CCTV cameras.


Councillor Alam stated that the funding was limited and targeted. There were severe issues in Maltby that had to be addressed first and then the funding had gone to Brinsworth. There was only a finite amount of resources available and they had to be targeted where a measured impact could be made.


11) Councillor A. Carter asked: Has the Council received any allegations of standing water within graves at Dignity maintained burial sites in the Borough, and if so what measures has the Council taken to address this?

Councillor Alam explained that the Council was made aware of some water in a test grave at East Herringthorpe cemetery during the Easter Bank Holiday (Good Friday.) This was raised with Dignity straight away and as a result of significant engagement from Council Officers they have since invested in considerable improvements to the cemetery including works to install a significant number of pre-cast tombstones, tarmacking pathways, drainage works, and landscaping to ensure that the issue if fully addressed. There was still some work in progress.


In his supplementary, Councillor A. Carter stated that in an answer to the public questions, Councillor Alam had stated that there were proactive measures being taken to monitor the contract and the possibility of fines. It had been said that there was a zero tolerance policy on Dignity’s management at these burial sites and there was shared disappointment in how Dignity had managed these sites. Why therefore were Dignity not fined as per the contract and could reassurances be given regarding the dealing of the standing water?


Councillor Alam explained that a performance management system was in place and monthly meetings with Dignity took place. There was also a contractual meeting every quarter. Councillor Alam assured Councillor A. Carter that if Dignity did not deliver, they would face financial penalties. In relation to the standing water, it was confirmed that there may still be some on site, but the new drainage works should limit the risk.


12) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked: A dark side of the British Empire was the plunder of cultural items from colonised territories. What audits have been carried out to see if our artistic and cultural collections contain items initially acquired by any form of colonial violence or oppression?


Councillor Sheppard explained that of the 76,000 objects that were part of the Rotherham Collection, the World Cultures Collection accounts for just 294. Whilst no formal audits have been undertaken, a recent project to better understand the World Cultures collections revealed that the origin of many of these items was unknown with some suspected to be as a result of missionary and charitable work in other territories. This project, which was funded by Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, has instigated continued partnerships with communities of South-Asia, African, Roma and Chinese heritage locally to explore how their heritage can be better represented within the collection.


The Council also acts as the sole trustee for the York and Lancaster Regimental Collection and Archive. This collection holds 3,800 objects and 11,000 photographs and archives. As with any military collection the provenance of some items was uncertain and the Council in this instance was the trustee on behalf of others.


In his supplementary, Councillor Bennett-Sylvester stated that, as a declared Anti-Racism Council, it was important to declare those stories and where they are coming from. Could a review be done so if there are any suspicions over certain items, the story of those items could be made known and become part of the Rotherham story in order to recognise that part of history?


Councillor Sheppard agreed that the Council needed to be accountable for what it held and the reasons as to why it was holding it. If a claim came forward for an item held by Rotherham MBC, the Council should be responding in a right and moral way.


13) Councillor A. Carter asked: There has been an application made to enforce moving traffic offences on Wood Lane in Brinsworth by the Council. What will the cost of enforcement on this road be, and will the Council commit to looking into opening this road up for resident-only local traffic destined for Brinsworth and Catcliffe?


Councillor Beck encouraged Councillor A. Carter to submit details of the residents only access request into the consultation which was now open and would close on 23rd December, 2022. In relation to costs, it was explained that ,based on examples from other authorities, one-off installation costs of between £15,000 and £25,000 are expected, with running costs of up to £700 per month to operate and maintain.  Some sites and types of restriction in need of more than one camera for effective enforcement which will increase the cost of a site further.


In his supplementary, Councillor A. Carter stated that significant installation costs and £700 per month per scheme maintenance had been mentioned and he was of the opinion that this was an extra expense to the Council at a time when there was significant budget pressures, overspends, and potentially a huge hike in Council Tax. He asked the Cabinet Member if this was the wrong priority for this time?


Councillor Beck did not agree because the 6 areas that had been identified as part of the Moving Traffic Offences Enforcement Scheme were all hotspots identified over many years by residents across the Borough and the affected areas. It was not just a cost matter because, for enforcement activity that could be undertaken, there would be fines that would come back to the Council which would help pay for the service. 


14) Councillor Fisher asked: Can RMBC clarify where the fines against Dignity are reinvested after its failings regarding the flooding, very poor ground conditions and service delivery, that it has been charging the community, when not fit for purpose, at the East Herringthorpe Cemetery?

Councillor Alam explained that there had been significant investment of more than £400,000 by Dignity in the Borough’s cemeteries this year to improve the ground conditions and service delivery this has included significant additional works to drainage, footpaths, and the installation of a significant number of pre-cast tombs in advance of winter to protect the overall condition of the cemetery. Fines will be reported through the appropriate meetings in due course and full details will be provided in those reports.


Councillor Alam wished to thank officers for working very hard to get issues with Dignity sorted.


In his supplementary, Councillor Fisher asked, of the 54 Key Performance Indicator’s mentioned earlier in the meeting, how many had been missed in the last 12 months by Dignity?


Councillor Alam explained that the annual report that contained that information was currently being drafted and would then be presented to Scrutiny. It was expected that this would be presented at the next Scrutiny Committee meeting.


15) Councillor Baum-Dixon submitted the following question: Are the Council undertaking additional street cleaning and drain clearing as a preventive measure as we enter flood season?


As Councillor Baum-Dixon was not present at the meeting, a written response would be provided.


16) Councillor Baum-Dixon submitted the following question: Wards are provided with mobile CCTV cameras that can be moved quickly at the request of Ward Members and the Police to crime hotspots, to detect and deter criminal behaviour and give confidence to our communities. Is this current system working?

As Councillor Baum-Dixon was not present at the meeting, a written response would be provided.


17) Councillor Baum-Dixon submitted the following question: The fire at Kiveton Industrial Estate has been burning since 7th September. Are the Council working effectively with all partners to ensure the fire is put out quickly in the short-term and that action is taken to ensure this does not happen again in future?

As Councillor Baum-Dixon was not present at the meeting, a written response would be provided.


18) Councillor Baum-Dixon submitted the following question: What action has the Council taken to protect the health of residents, in areas such as West Thorpe, South Anston, Kiveton, Harthill and Todwick who have been affected by smoke from the fire at Kiveton Industrial Estate?

As Councillor Baum-Dixon was not present at the meeting, a written response would be provided.


19) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked: Victims of capitalist oppression who have arrived from overseas are housed in hotels and other properties in Rotherham. What can we as Councillors do to ensure their human rights and needs are protected?


The Leader explained that the Council could only do a limited amount. The Council had opposed the use of hotel accommodation in the Borough. It has a proud history of supporting people who are fleeing persecution by housing them in permanent accommodation across the borough. The Council did not want people living in hotels for any length of time.


Where there were concerns and reports of specific instances, there were channels to the Home Office available. However, the maintenance of those hotels and the oversight of the accommodation was closely guarded by Central Government. It was not something the Council was directly involved in. The Council could absolutely make representations to the Home Office if there were concerns but it was not something that was within the gift of the Council.


In his supplementary, Councillor Bennett-Sylvester stated there had been videos of thugs videoing the hotels and there had been anecdotal reports of harassment from those. As community leaders, he stated that there were 2 things they could do which were to: state strongly that anyone doing the legal act of seeking asylum was not an illegal immigrant; and due to the reasons why many had had to leave their homes and come to this country, which were the same reasons why people in this country struggled for work, for housing and to eat, it was important to state that the people of Rotherham had far more in common with those people than the people the Conservative opposition represented. Did the Leader agree?


The Leader did agree and highlighted previous conversations that had taken place in the Chamber regarding the manipulation of people in local communities by the Far-Right into narratives of hate and targeting people who were fleeing persecution. It was important to maintain a level of discourse about this and the way in which it was talked about. It was important to remember that these are human beings and they have much more in common with Rotherham residents than they do not. 


20) Councillor Baum-Dixon submitted the following question: Does the Council [accept] that communication about the Kiveton Fire and public engagement with residents has been poor to date and what action is being taken to remedy this situation?

As Councillor Baum-Dixon was not present at the meeting, a written response would be provided.


21) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked: What will we be doing to monitor the impact of voter suppression legislation on the 2023 local elections in order to minimise the level of disenfranchisement when we next hold elections?

The Leader explained that the Council’s electoral team would be:


·       working with neighbouring local authorities to get first-hand experience of voter ID at the May 2023 polls.

·       Working with the Electoral Commission and the Association of Electoral Administrators to learn from examples of best practice.

·       Engaging with the Electoral Commission’s national promotional campaign.


Using this knowledge and understanding would ensure Rotherham has robust plans in place to ensure maximum voter participation for the elections in May 2024.


In his supplementary, Councillor Bennett-Sylvester explained that he would not be able to vote at the next election because of the level of ID he currently held. He was now motivated to get the required ID so he could vote. However, one in 20 people in the country do not have a bank account or basic ID. The big question was if voting does not change anything, why are the Government scared of certain people voting? Did the Leader agree that this needed to be pushed on the political spectrum?


The Leader explained that right information needed to be provided to people at the right time. Lessons needed to be learnt from elections in May 2023 and information needed to be provided to households in enough time. Access to qualifying ID needed to be made easy and readily available. More could be done around postal votes and closer to election time. Candidates also needed to make people aware of the right things to do in order to be able to vote and not intimidated into thinking it was too difficult and bureaucratic, so they did not vote. All this had to be done to ensure the impacts of the draconian legislation were as small as possible.  


22) Councillor Tinsley asked: A donation of £2,000 was made to the Rother Valley Labour Party by a large landowner in Maltby back in 2017. In 2018, the Local Sites and Polices document was implemented which set out additional land that was suitable for housing  Did Councillors make the relevant Declarations of Interests when this Policy was voted on?


The Leader explained that he had no reason to believe they did not.


In his supplementary, Councillor Tinsley asked whether the Leader agreed that eyebrows could be raised locally on the integrity of Councillors over this allocation of housing land in Maltby? There was now a planning application by the same donor which again would raise eyebrows.


The Leader reiterated that he had no reason to believe that anyone did anything wrong in the first instance. Further, given the route of the money, the Leader believed that it would have gone nowhere near any Councillors. So no, the Leader did not think that was the case and people did not need to be concerned.


23) Councillors Mills asked: How many cases of fly tipping has there been within the last 2 years?

Councillor Beck stated that there had been 11,114 cases of fly tipping in the past 2 years.


In his supplementary question, Councillor Mills asked what percentage of the perpetrators were actually fined?


Councillor Beck explained that a written response would be provided. However, he could confirm that there was plenty of activities going on, both overt and covert, to try and tackle persistent perpetrators of fly tipping. The Council was doing a lot better in recent years compared to previous years.

24) Councillors Mills asked: How much does it cost the Taxpayer to clean-up fly tipping?


Councillor Beck explained that the total cost of removing fly tipping in the last full calendar year, which was 2021, was £200,569.49.

In his supplementary, Councillor Mills asked, to help combat this issue, would it be best practice to rethink the rules on who could actually use Household Waste Recycling Centres? For example, vans could be allowed to use them.

Councillor Beck explained that a wide range of waste was already accepted at HWRC. The Council was currently reviewing how HWRC’s were operated moving forward. However, the reality was that the fly tipping was predominantly done by people who, even if every bit of waste was accepted from them, would still fly tip because it came from nefarious means where people often do not have the correct waste permits. These people therefore do not want to be found.


25) Councillor Tinsley asked: With Remembrance Parades going ahead across the Borough. Is there going to be any consideration towards implementing an initiative of Community Road Traffic Management Training?

Councillor Sheppard explained that in 2021 the Council made an interim provision to support road closures for Remembrance Parades to take place locally following the national withdrawal of Police support for road closures relating to events. This arrangement has been further reviewed and adopted as a permanent measure. As such there are no further plans to provide Community Road Traffic Management Training as the current scheme was far better.


In his supplementary, Councillor Tinsley asked for information to be made available in writing to enable those who planned Remembrance Parades to fully understand the process.


Councillor Sheppard confirmed that the information was on the website but he would get the information sent to Councillor Tinsley.

26) Councillor Tinsley asked: Maltby foodbank was subject to flooding last week. A request for sandbags to help protect the building and the risk to food supplies. The building was classed as commercial and limited help was given. Do you agree that the Council should be doing as much as reasonably possible to assist organisations such as this?


Councillor Beck explained that he was very sorry to hear about the flooding, especially at a foodbank given the service that was being provided. However, he did not agree with the insinuation that the Council had not been there and had not been helpful. There was a very small drainage team that had to go out there, often out of hours, to do their best in floods. The Council did provide 12 sandbags on the night of the event and in the days after the event the food bank contacted the Council and the Council provided 50 empty sandbags for them to fill will sand that they already had on site. The Council had acted in good faith and provided help. The small drainage team were incredibly stretched in times of high demand, and they could only do so much. On this occasion they did their best.


In his supplementary, Councillor Tinsley explained that, instead of being delivered to the Foodbank, 6 sandbags were actually delivered to his house and the 50 other sandbags were a little late.


Councillor Beck restated that the Council wanted to help where possible, even though there was no duty on the Council to do so. The provision was limited and could only go so far. Councillor Beck was pleased to be able to help the foodbank.


27)  Councillor Tinsley asked: Did the Council apply for a part of the 1.4 billion pounds of funding available from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund. If so how much was applied for and what was it spent on?

As Councillor Lelliott was not present at the meeting, a written response would be provided to Councillor Tinsley.