To receive questions from members of the public who wish to ask a general question in respect of matters within the Council’s area of responsibility or influence.
Subject to the Chair’s discretion, members of the public may ask one question and one supplementary question, which should relate to the original question and answered received.
Councillors may also ask questions under this agenda item.
The first question was from Mr Tareen who referred to a previous Cabinet meeting held on 7th August 2023 and the request for a meeting with the Muslim Burial Council which took place on 5 September 2023. Mr. Tareen expressed his gratitude for the arrangements and the positive meeting that took place. He, therefore, asked if he was able to have a recording of the meeting and for an update as to the time of a further meeting scheduled for 5th October 2023 which it was hoped the Muslim Burial Council would be invited.
The Leader had yet to catch up with officers following the meeting but welcomed the news that the meeting had been positive. He would provide an update in due course.
In addition, the Monitoring Officer confirmed a call for items for the agenda of 5th October would be circulated shortly.
In the second question Councillor Ball explained he understood that several Councillors had been prevented from standing in next year’s local elections by the National Labour Party including it was alleged, the Deputy Mayor, at least one Cabinet Member and also the Chair of Planning, in addition to one Member who had already resigned forcing a by-election.
If this was correct, why, if the Labour Party deemed them not fit to be Rotherham Councillors, were those Members still in their positions this morning?
The Leader declined to comment and would not speculate on an ongoing Labour Party process. However, he confirmed that no-one had either been selected or de-selected by the Labour Party at this moment in time.
Councillor Sansome had clearly stood down from the Council and had his own reasons for doing so.
In a supplementary question Councillor Ball asked if those Members were deselected would the Leader remove them immediately and put out a statement to the public and Elected Members to say what had changed from 2016 after the Casey Report and now?
The Leader again reiterated that he would not speculate on an ongoing Labour Party process.
In the third question Councillor Bennett-Sylvester confirmed that later on today the results of the latest ballot for industrial action by Grave Diggers at East Herringthorpe Cemetery would be known and he asked for an assurance that should there be any disruption to services that Dignity would face any financial penalties. It was Dignity’s responsibility to maintain good industrial relations with their contracts and their people.
The Leader expected that the contract applied in full and would still continue to have the same expectations. He was uncertain if there were contractual provision for industrial action.
The Monitoring Officer advised that a response would be provided on the specific points raised to ensure contact advice offered was accurate and confirmed that the Council would be liaising with Dignity to ensure that any disruption to service was minimised to those who were bereaved.
The final question was from Councillor Tinsley who referred to the Selective Licensing report on the agenda. He noted that the latest figures for HHSRS Inspections 715 out of 2,185 completed. Of the inspected properties 16% have been found to have category 1 hazards and 39% with category 2 hazards do you think with the backlog of inspections and percentage of category hazards already identified that this could constitute a Selective Licensing crisis.
The Leader advised that he did not feel this constituted a crisis but that it demonstrated that the Council were right to implement a Selective Licensing Scheme in those areas. A high number of issues with properties in these areas have been identified and the Policy means that improvements for tenants are able to be implemented in these areas.
The Leader advised that this also illustrated challenges with the way Selective Licensing Legislation was formed in so far as the Council were only able to charge to landlords the costs of administering the Scheme. The Scheme had to be self-financing meaning that there were limited resources available to undertake inspections. This meant that the team had to prioritise activity.
Councillor Tinsley noted that additional challenges had been seen e.g. Covid Outbreak which had limited inspections. He said it would be usual for these houses to be inspected twice, however, they had only been inspected once which was below 50%. He asked if the Leader thought the Council should be providing more resource to get these inspections done so at least one inspection has been completed. He also asked if the Leader agreed that more information be given to residents so they were not sat waiting for inspections to take place and they can raise any property issues as they came along.
The Leader said he would take forward the request to provide additional information to tenant on how to raise concerns if this was an ongoing problem.
The Leader said that all would want the Selective Licensing Team to be fully resourced to the point where it was effective and at the end of the 5-year cycle could reduce the Scheme. However, the Leader noted that the challenge with this was where the resources would be taken from to increase this area.
The Leader said he felt the team was doing a good job and improving people’s homes within the resources available to them.
The Leader said he was happier having the conversation now than with the previous opposition who opposed the scheme altogether.