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 Hoddinott asked what were the range of parish council tax rises - highest and lowest - for the forthcoming year?
Councillor Alam confirmed the highest percentage increases were for Wales Parish at 39.65% and Brinsworth at 23%. In cash terms, the biggest increase (£38.95 for a Band D property) would be in the Brinsworth parish. The lowest was actually a reduction and was Laughton-en-le-Morthen at -6.18%.
A full list of changes to parish precepts would be supplied in writing.
In a supplementary question Councillor Hoddinott welcomed the information in writing and was amazed at the range. She, therefore, asked, given the discussion that had taken place earlier on the agenda and the squeeze on households, if the Cabinet Member believed Parish Councils should also take responsibility to ensure they did not pass on large rises to residents.
Councillor Alam agreed with Councillor Hoddinott and confirmed Parish Councils did need to take some responsibility to ensure people were not penalised more. This information would be fed back to Parish Councils.
(2) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked what had been the total cost so far to the HRA of providing hard standings, screening and any other capital works for communal bins linked to the pink bin changes of 2019?
Councillor Brookes explained the total costs charged to the Housing Revenue Account for works to provide hard standings, screening and associated ground works to accommodate communal bin provision to Council homes was £2,641,669.
The works have improved the waste facilities across 273 apartment blocks covering 1821 individual properties equating to a cost of £1,450 per property.
(3) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked how many incidents have there been this last financial year of the caretaking service clearing fly tips and excess rubbish from around communal bin areas and have these incurred any extra costs to housing?
Councillor Brookes confirmed to date, this financial year, the estate caretaking service has attended to ten incidences where excess waste or tipped items had to be removed from communal bin areas. The associated extra cost to the service was £16,411.
In a supplementary question Councillor Bennett-Sylvester referred to his own experiences of having to contact relevant staff due to inconsiderate waste being discarded and believed these communal areas were being targeted and a magnet for fly tipping and non-residents’ cross-contaminating bins etc.
The pink bin changes were brought in during 2019 on the back of the change to kerbside plastic so asked was it time for a review of the operation, the caretaking staff looking after them and best results from the service. In addition, not making residents having to look at eyesores as a result of non-residents coming and using and abusing the service.
Councillor Brookes was unable to accurately say when that contract was up for renewal, but would investigate and come back to Councillor Bennett-Sylvester.
(4) Councillor Jones in November asked the Cabinet Member why RMBC had not ever registered Phase 1 of Watsons Tip as contaminated. In his reply he said it was not the Council’s responsibility and that the Environment Agency should be contacted so asked was this still the Cabinet Member’s opinion?
Councillor Beck confirmed it was.
In a supplementary Councillor Jones confirmed that in an effort to be open minded to other people’s opinions, he had contacted both an Environmental Solicitor and the Environment Agency’s Specialist Landfill Team Manager and both were of the opinion that it was the Local Authority’s responsibility to list the site on the Contaminated Land Register. The only two organisations that could do this were the Environment Agency and the Council, so unless the Cabinet Member could suggest anyone else to contact, when would the Council carry out its duty of care to the residents and, over thirty years later than it should have, register the land.
Councillor Beck explained the Council was prevented from listing the land as a result of the legislation. It clearly set out in the statutory guidance that the listing of land as contaminated should be a last resort and the legislation specifically exempted the listing of land in certain circumstances, one of which was where the land was subject to an Environmental Permit, as was the case here. Any ongoing future regulations and management of the site was the preserve of the Environment Agency who were responsible for this.
(5) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked would the Cabinet Member please take this Member’s recommendation that the recent Rothercard review should be used as a case study for Member Development as an example of good practice for how to conduct service reviews.
Councillor Allen also praised the work of not only Councillor Bennett-Sylvester, but Councillors Cooksey, McNeely and Sheppard.
Councillor Allen was happy to arrange for a discussion to take place at the next Member and Democratic Panel on 22nd March, 2023 to discuss learning from the review and the best way in which to share the case study with all Members.
In a supplementary question Councillor Bennett-Sylvester praised the process and the direct focus and the openness that had taken place with the candidates and officers. This had facilitated attention to the issues and how best to take these forward. As an involved Member he found it of great value and an overall great experience.
Councillor Allen was glad that Councillor Bennett-Sylvester found the way in which the cross-party review was conducted to be an example of good practice.
(6) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester explained that since the discussion at the September Improving Places Select Commission asked what work had been done at looking at the possibility of redistributing neighbourhood CIL monies from Zone 1 charging areas to more deprived neighbourhoods?
Councillor Allen explained that following the discussion at the Improving Places Scrutiny Commission in September, 2022 the Neighbourhoods Team, together with Planning colleagues, have started to explore alternative approaches for distributing Local CIL in non-parished areas of the borough. This had included approaching Sheffield City Council to consider whether their approach would be suitable for Rotherham. It was noted, however, that the implications would have to be considered of their approach and redistribution carefully and discussions were certainly not at that stage yet. More work was needed to be done and Councillor Allen confirmed she would be happy to come back and share this work at Improving Places Select Commission in due course.
In a supplementary question Councillor Bennett-Sylvester welcomed the work and highlighted the point that 15% was a return back within a good Neighbourhood Policy. It was just the situation regarding zoning where 15% of Zone 1 Policies, which was over £60 sqm, was a lot more than for the deprived neighbourhoods, but he welcomed this approach.
Councillor Allen had no comment to make.
(7) Councillor Jones pointed out that at the entrance to Grange Park RMBC had a CCTV camera installed on the lamp column, so asked could the Cabinet Member please confirm how many requests for downloads had been received from South Yorkshire Police from that camera in the last two years.
Councillor Alam confirmed the Council had not received any requests for downloads. However, the Police were able to access cameras directly in order to access footage.
In a supplementary question Councillor Jones had received a slightly different answer to the one given and believed there had been one request for a download from that camera which was taken at the time the gates were demolished on the site. At that time the camera was not working.
The camera was bought as a partnership between the wards of Keppel and Rotherham West to detect criminal behaviour such as the demolition of the gates. However, last year in Rotherham West there was a problem with drug dealing, violent behaviour including assault and a camera was requested which took sixteen weeks to be installed. During this time Rotherham West offered to buy Keppel out of their share of the camera and redeploy it to that area for the crime prevention, but was told that Members had refused the offer and insisted that the camera stayed in that location.
The Cabinet Member was, therefore, asked if it was thought this was a good use of public resources and money.
Councillor Alam explained that if the camera was purchased by two Wards then it should be up to the Elected Members where this was located. If the majority of Members wanted the camera to stay where it was then this should be supported.
(8) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked how did the new car parking charges for Thrybergh Country Park agreed (presumably) today compared to the return bus fare for a family of two adults and two children visiting the park from say Dalton.
Councillor Sheppard explained the service had contacted First Bus to determine the likely cost of travel from Dalton to Thrybergh by bus for two adults and two children. The operator had advised that the cheapest ticket would be a Family First Group Ticket which was priced at £9.00 if purchased via the app or £10.00 if purchased at the point of travel – this ticket covered up to five people and would allow for unlimited travel throughout the day.
In contrast if a family of four were to travel from Dalton to Thrybergh Country Park by car the likely cost of petrol based on a standard family car would be estimated at 63p per journey x 2 = £1.26 and parking was proposed in Fees and Charges at £2.50 per day. Therefore, the total expected cost of travel by car was estimated at £3.76.
The Council was committed to ensuring that all of its parks and green spaces were accessible to all residents, particularly those with low income and was proud to offer a high-quality experience at Thrybergh Country Park that remained affordable in this difficult and challenging economic climate.
In a supplementary question Councillor Bennett-Sylvester explained that if people did not have travel to access the site, then the X78 route covered not only Dalton but a range of deprived communities where it left the borough at Meadowbank. The Cabinet Member was asked if he could continue to look at the priority to find ways to ease access to the park for people travelling by public transport and to look at ways to improve crossing the A630 which not only made a physical, but also a financial barrier for people travelling there by public transport.
Councillor Sheppard, as a fellow user of public transport, acknowledged the difficulty in finding the cheapest fares in the myriad of tickets that were available. Sadly, Rotherham was not successful as a region in the bid for transport to have the tap-on, tap-off that some other areas had and would have been a great way of accessing so many different spaces knowing the cheapest price for a ticket was being obtained.
(9) Councillor Jones asked with the re-opening of Grange Landfill from March 2023 did the Council have a road safety plan to tackle the 100 plus 30 tonne lorries that would be using the south bound A629.
Councillor Beck confirmed the Council had already considered implications arising from the operation of the site and had introduced a restriction on turning right out of the site. The Council would continue to review road safety requirements across the Borough and would take heed of any new information should it come to light. Moving forward the Council would continue to look at ways at improving road safety as the site becomes into operation.
In a supplementary question Councillor Jones confirmed he had hoped to have heard about a comprehensive plan to safeguard both the children of Thorpe Hesley Primary School and the residents along the A629 in general. Basically the “no right turn” sign actually put people on the A629 and not away from it. During the Clean Air Action Zone consultation Councillor Jones took the opportunity to ask officers to put weight limits on all linking roads that run through Rotherham West Ward. This was done to keep lorries away from local primary schools and residents. He asked why was the opportunity not taken by anyone else to drive through road safety measures that could have been enforced under this national legislation.
Councillor Beck confirmed that as part of the current Clean Air Zone controls were put in place on Upper Wortley Road which related to northbound HGV movements from Rhymer’s roundabout (Tesco).
Any southbound prohibition would need to be considered as a new scheme, funding found and a new process in place. This would be kept under regular review in conjunction with local Members. The road safety programme would enable Ward Members to feed in any issues so technical officers could understand the full picture and he encouraged Councillor Jones to keep doing so.
(10) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked according to visitor surveys what percentage of visitors to Thrybergh Country Park do so by public or sustainable travel methods?
Councillor Sheppard explained In the latest visitor survey (2019) 10% of visitors to Thrybergh Country Park did so via public or sustainable travel methods.
In a supplementary question Councillor Bennett-Sylvester explained he had people in his Ward where car ownership was much lower than the 90% who were travelling by car. He asked if this could be looked at in the next financial year for planning general improvements to enable people to walk, cycle and get to that park by other means. Already one footpath had been looked at, but stressed that people who did not own a car should be able to access their local park. This is more so when considerable investment had been to facilitate a new car park at the site.
Councillor Sheppard was always happy to promote many of sustainable ways of accessing country parks and green spaces and stressed the figures for Clifton Park were 31% and Rother Valley Country Park were 25% (2022 survey results).
Councillor Sheppard explained it did have an impact which bus services were available to enable people to travel by sustainable methods, but the Cabinet Member was always happy to look at other ways to improve.
(11) Councillor Jones explained in 1990 the Council’s Environmental Health Department found lethal amounts of heavy metals, later described as “toxic “at a Kimberworth site. He asked what measures would the Council expect to be in place to safeguard children in this area and notify residents to stay away.
Councillor Beck understood the 1990 report did not reference “lethal” or “toxic” levels of materials as had been suggested. He again outlined the Environment Agency were responsible for regulating the site, including any risk associated with contamination.
In a supplementary question Councillor Jones clarified that the actual levels mentioned on the 1990 report were classed as adverse to human health. They have since been revised and levels were now classed as lethal and were also described in a later report by the Planning Inspectorate as being toxic. The site had no signage to make anyone aware that it was toxic and so did not have the two metre high chain link fence and three strands of barbed wire that it should have had put in place after that enquiry. This was a planning condition and not one done by the Environment Agency. The site only had an intermittent fence around the site that anyone could easily access and for over thirty years due to the site not being monitored, managed or enforced which had put residents at an enhanced cancer risk who had walked over that site for generations. Councillor Jones, therefore, asked when was the Council going to do the planning enforcement on this site.
Councillor Beck confirmed he would look into any ongoing planning enforcement opportunities, but was assured that where there was cause or need the Council have responded to any issues accordingly.
Referring back to the contaminants the report in 1990 which showed 'above trigger levels’ of contaminants which may pose a hazard to health, which the Council took note of as they did of the Planning Enquiry in 1992.
The Council continued to raise these issues with the Environment Agency and would continue to monitor progress.
It was the Environment Agency’s role to regulate this site and any associated risks of contamination.
(12) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester confirmed that until 19th March Clifton Park Museum was hosting an excellent exhibition by the Silverwood Colliery Heritage Group. He asked what was the general strategy for supporting such groups and ensuring mining heritage was permanently remembered.
Councillor Sheppard also placed on record his thanks and appreciation to the Heritage Group for the excellent display, which was well worth a visit for the next two weeks. He confirmed the Museums, Arts and Heritage service worked closely with local communities and interest groups across the borough to ensure that its exhibition and events programme and collection represented the interests, history and heritage of a diverse range of communities.
The Rotherham Collection had a substantial collection documenting Rotherham’s rich industrial heritage which was displayed in both permanent displays within Clifton Park Museum, and as part of temporary exhibitions such as the current exhibition celebrating the Silverwood Colliery.
The service would work with the group to consider how the exhibition could be developed into a larger show for the main temporary exhibition spaces and how objects from this project could be acquisitioned to the Rotherham Collection on a permanent basis.
Any Members visiting the test spaces on the first floor of the Museum would have seen the diverse collections and exhibitions on display. It really was a fantastic place to visit and interact and hopefully all Members would continue to support it.
In a supplementary question Councillor Bennett-Sylvester paid tribute to those involved in the display for their passion and making sure these stories were told, which was fantastic. One of the ambitions was to find a permanent home for the memorabilia and asked on behalf of Noma Platt, former Youth Worker, whether as part of Parkgate 200 the former miners/youth centre, which had fallen into some disrepair externally, the wider mining community could look to saving it in collaboration with other celebrations.
Councillor Sheppard pointed out that whilst the building would be unable to host anything as part of the 200 year celebration he appreciated the sentiment believed responsibility lay with CISWO, the building owners.
In terms of the exhibition it was excellent and anything that could done by the service to assist in finding a permanent home the Cabinet Member was more than happy to collaborate to assist.
(13) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked what was the cost to service for dealing with escaped pigs in Thrybergh before Christmas and have the Council any hope of recovering any such costs?
Councillor Beck confirmed it was quite bizarre to receive the email about pigs being loose in Thrybergh. The Council incurred a small cost for the hire of the fencing used to contain the pigs, but largely costs have been incurred through the officer time spent dealing with the issue on behalf of local residents.
It would take some considerable work to identify these costs accurately, but it was estimated to be in the region of £1,500 to £2,500.
Recovering costs could be a challenge in such cases, but officers do pursue this wherever possible.
In a supplementary question Councillor Bennett-Sylvester pointed out this was an example of an over-stretched service going against antiquated legislation in something that was really a community concern, especially with regards to the grave yard at Thrybergh. He paid tribute to Lewis Coates and Emma Ellis who had to leave dealing with a case of illegal dog breeding in the borough to look out for this.
Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked that his comments be passed on and that when services were cash-strapped and come across bizarre incidents, then efforts should be made to recover costs where possible.
Councillor Beck, thanked Councillor Bennett-Sylvester with whom he had communicated with at the time, especially with damage to the grave yard. He confirmed he would gladly forward on the comments and hopefully would not see a repeat of an incident such as this ever again.
(14) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester referred how on 23rd December the Member of Parliament for Rother Valley tweeted support for a woman breaching a PSPO who was looking to intimidate women accessing abortion services in Birmingham. He asked could the Cabinet Member give assurfance that should the need arise, this Council would also use PSPO’s to protect women’s rights to access health care.
The Leader confirmed there were specific circumstances for when PSPOs should only be used and each case would have to consider on a case by case basis.
The Council would look to take the necessary steps as far as it could to protect women from abuse and harassment and if this was to access health care, then the Council would.
In a supplementary question Councillor Bennett-Sylvester believed this to be a very worrying trend in politics in terms of the far right taking control of the Conservative Party launching what could be termed as culture wars. Basically as a Christian people were taught to pray privately and not on street, not intimidate others and make a decision on what could be the worst time of their lives. He asked for assurances that should these kind of attempts to weaponize religion by the right that the Leader would offer support in making sure services for people were property protected.
The Leader confirmed Councillor Bennett-Sylvester was correct and that the thrust of what he was saying was to protect people’s essential rights. He was also correct that there was a political trend to use some of these movements which seemed to originate on the other side of the pond in terms of political life here in Britain.
The Leader was more confident that the reach was limited and people were more likely to have more common sense and be more confident in their religious beliefs and reasons in this country than our friends on the other side of the world. He agreed everyone needed to be vigilant where this affected people’s lives and religion.
(15) Councillor Castledine-Dack asked following the tragic death of a teenager on Laughton Common Road, would the Council consider implementing a proper footpath along this increasingly-popular walking route
Councillor Beck confirmed this was a very distressing incident and also referred to another on Swinston Hill Road a few weeks after. All thoughts remained with the family and friends of those who die. As was the case with any road traffic collision which resulted in loss of life or serious injury, the Council was working with road safety partner organisations to analyse the circumstances that led to the incident and identify any patterns and possible causes.
Until the outcome of the South Yorkshire Police investigation and the Coroner’s Report was received it would not be appropriate to comment on the specific details involved today, or in regard of any possible improvements to the route, but the Cabinet Member gave his assurance he and the service would consider the findings carefully.
In a supplementary question Councillor Castledine-Dack confirmed she would pass this information on to the families concerned, but appreciated the Cabinet Member was limited as to what he could say at this stage. She just wanted to raise on their behalf their concerns about using this route to walk between Laughton Common and Thurcroft. It was a national speed limit road, there was no footpath and limited lighting, but asked in terms of looking at forward strategy whether this could be looked into and placing this formally on record.
Councillor Beck confirmed he would and would offer support to the family. He acknowledged the petition that was circulating which he would respond to in due course. This week he had asked officers of the Council and those of the Safer Road Partnership to look at some awareness raising as a Local Authority to ensure similar incidents did not occur anywhere else in the borough or further afield. Both incidents took place in and around the Dinnington area were very similar in nature.
(16) Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked the Leader to report on actions by this Council in dealing with the recent protest by fascists seeking to intimidate refugees in Manvers and the larger counter protest by local patriots looking to defend this country’s values of decency and tolerance.
The Leader confirmed the Police were the lead partners when managing any protest activity. The Council worked closely with the Police to respond to any requests for services and in this case by supporting proactive actions around potential road closures, access to any CCTV assets, support during the planning process as well as updating local Councillors and engaging with the Community. On the day of the protests the Council worked in the Police command suite with a strategic lead based at Riverside House.
In a supplementary question Councillor Bennett-Sylvester turned the Leader’s attention to a conversation they had had previously about language use and detail deliberately chosen in the question. He was proud of the indecent intolerance, but when there were some Elected Members stating that the Council should not be dealing with wider problems and discussing issues such as Rwanda and deportation or hate crime. He reiterated those discussions did have repercussions locally and even the current Leader of the Opposition had raised the question of being able to give addresses. Councillor Bennett-Sylvester himself had given his address and was yet to hear anything. He wished to point out that national issues were still worth discussing as national politics impacted locally.
The Leader agreed with Councillor Bennett-Sylvester and over the past twenty years it had shown the world was a very small place. The consequences of events thousands of miles away have repercussions here within twenty hours of travel. It was correct that the way Members conducted themselves, the language used and the way to approach discussions, which were sometimes difficult, was important. This often reverberated out into communities and people had legitimate differences, but this should be dealt with in a way that was respectful.
(17) Councillor Jones referred last year he twice asked the Cabinet Member to confirm the status of the access road at Grange Park. In his last response he said that the Council owned the land, but not the surface of the road so asked did he still stand by this comment.
Councillor Beck confirmed he did.
In a supplementary question Councillor Jones confirmed that since the last meeting he had provided the Council and the Action Group Solicitor with a document which brought into question the validity of the site owner’s claim to a right of access. As part of the follow up work aerial photographs and maps have been examined to prove that the Council laid the road as part of the site remodelling in around 1976 to incorporate a car park. This work was undertaken by a Council contractor. He also had sight of the reinstatement plan for Phase 1 done by the current owners of the site which again clearly showed the operator installing a temporary whole road from the site to join the same tarmac road. This was back in 1992. Again the Action Group have supplied this information to the Council. He, therefore, asked could the Cabinet Member please tell him when the Council was going to stop playing games on the ownership of the road and start seriously looking at legal action to stop the trespass and unregulated use of the accessway owned by the Council.
Councillor Beck was only able to comment on the up-to-date legal position. He reiterated that theaccess road to the Grange Landfill site is on land owned by the Council and the owner of the tip had a right of way over the land. The Council had a duty not to obstruct the use of the access way, but it had no duty whatsoever to maintain the access route in a useable condition. The Council was not, therefore, responsible for the access road itself.
(18) Councillor Castledine-Dack asked what steps was the Council taking to engage with businesses and residents about the future of Dinnington High Street.
Councillor Lelliott confirmed the Council set out a strong case for investment in Dinnington in its Levelling Up Fund Bid. The bid set out proposals to tackle blight and create a new commercial square linking the parking areas, bus station and residential areas to the high street. Disappointingly, the Government decided not to support the bid.
The bid was developed in consultation with, and the express support of, local Ward Members, Dinnington St John’s Council and the local MP, representing local community interests including residents and local business owners. Information from Dinnington St John’s Neighbourhood Plan was used along with analysis from the Round 1 bid, and data collected locally, in order to develop proposals that were reflective of local priorities.
Since the announcement that the Government had not backed the bid, the Council had been working to understand what other funding options may be available for the area.
It was hoped and expected that the development of proposals outside the constrained and artificial windows of Government funding competitions would allow further involvement of residents and local businesses in shaping plans.
(19) Councillor Castledine-Dack asked would the Council invite Ed Clancy, South Yorkshire Active Travel Commissioner, to visit the villages of Dinnington ward including Laughton Common, Laughton-en-le-Morthen, Firbeck, Letwell and Carr, to see the challenges residents have in safe cycling and walking in their localities.
Councillor Beck confirmed yes, he would be happy to invite Ed Clancy to visit the Borough, to see some of the work done and share future plans which included Dinnington.
In February this year the Cadopted a new Cycling Strategy which set out ambitious plans for improving cycling and walking for across the Borough which would benefit local communities in providing accessible, low-cost travel solutions while also helping improve public health and the environment.
The Council had been busy in recent years delivering cycling schemes such as the dedicated cycle lanes on Fenton Road, the new segregated cycle lanes on Sheffield Road which would link up with further phases to connect the centres of Rotherham with Sheffield.
In addition, only a few days ago the Council submitted a further bid for over £926,000 funding under the Government’s Active Travel 4 programme which once awarded would provide further funding to develop active travel proposals including in Wath, Maltby - and indeed Dinnington. There would be a period of consultation that Members and residents could feed into which would be further developed.