Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Public


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 answer received.


Councillors may also ask questions under this agenda item.



There was one public question from Mr Arshad Azam:


Mr Azam firstly explained how grateful he was for the meetings between the Assistant Director of Legal Services, Councillor Alam and the Muslim Bereavement Liaison Group. He stated that both of the meetings had been extremely proactive and successful. The meetings were useful but Mr Azam asked what the next steps were? How could the work be more collaborative? There were still a number of issues such as the planning application, the waterlogged graves at Herringthorpe, the end-to-end progress review and the 35-year plan. Mr Azam was looking forward to seeing the 35-year plan in December. The Muslin Bereavement Liaison Group was set up to meet quarterly but Mr Azam did not feel this was sufficient as it did not give enough time to discuss timely issues. It had been demonstrated that the various parties could work together but it was vital that it moved to the next step.


The Assistant Director of Legal Services explained that the planning application could not be discussed as it was currently subject to the planning system procedures. However, interested parties would be kept updated on that as it progressed. The Assistant Director confirmed that quarterly meetings were booked in and stated that other meetings with Dignity had been arranged. The Council were happy to help facilitate these meetings in relation to specific operational matters.


Councillor Alam echoed what the Assistant Director had said and stated that the meetings had been very useful. He also reiterated that the operational matters were the responsibility of Dignity and the overall contract and performance management was the responsibility of the Council. At the meeting it was agreed that certain issues were operational and would need to be dealt with by Dignity such as the flooding of the graves and the planning application. The Council were encouraging Dignity to meet with the liaison group and wider community. The Council would review the performance management data every quarter.


In his supplementary question, Mr Azam stated that he understood the Council’s position in terms of Key Performance Indicators, but he felt that sometimes, all parties needed to be involved in discussions and actions to move forward. Whilst Mr Azam acknowledged that the planning application had to go through the proper process, but he had concerns about the road layout and the need for extra capacity. He thought it best that all parties “get around the table” to work through the issues. It was thought that there was around 18 months of space left at the cemetery and therefore there needed to be some urgency.


The Leader explained that it simply was not possible to commit to meeting on a more regular basis due to the amount of resource in took to hold the meetings but the offer of ad-hoc meetings when needed was on the table. 


The Leader allowed a second supplementary that related to the new Medical Examiner System that would be coming into effect from 1 April 2024. The new system required a Medical Examiner to review the cause of death of every individual that passes away in order for a death certificate to be produced. Mr Azam raised the question of how this would work in practice and whether there would be capacity issues? He asked how the Council were managing this situation?


Councillor Alam explained that this was a national issue as it was a change that the Government had made. He understood the concerns, particularly from a religious standpoint, where there was a set time in which a burial had to take place. However, the Council were still waiting for statutory guidance from the Government on how to move forward. Councillor Alam did explain that Rotherham and Sheffield should have a pilot to look at out of hours provision and other reasonable adjustments.


The Assistant Director of Legal Services explained that the legislation had been delayed by the Government repeatedly and as such the Council could not move forward. However the Council were continuing to chase the Government for updates  and liaise with the Medical Examiner. Once the information had been received, there would be a briefing and information circulated to all parties. The Leader asked offers to ensure this was done as early as possible.