Agenda item


To receive questions from members of the public who may wish to ask a general question of the Mayor, Cabinet Member or the Chairman of a Committee in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 12.


Two public questions had been submitted in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 12:


1.    Mr Paul Thorp:

FORS Gold operators champion the reduction of any carbon footprint and the safety of all vulnerable road users as a cornerstone to best practice. When you chose to build cycle lanes, the Sheffield Road to Wellgate was one of the first to be built. Since spending so much taxpayer’s money what was the expected benefits to Rotherham and its community?


The Leader responded:
The objectives were very similar to those of the FORS Gold Operators Scheme, including the reduction of carbon footprint and the safety of all vulnerable road users. The objectives of the scheme, as set out in the Cycling Strategy, where to enable Rotherham residents to choose walking or cycling as an option, reducing their carbon footprint relative to driving. The new infrastructure will allow this to be done safety, without impinging on access for motorists.

The Sheffield Road scheme in particular was chosen for two reasons. One was that, often when cycle lanes go in, they do not connect to anywhere and there were random bits of infrastructure. The Sheffield Road scheme allowed connections between the Town Centre and Tinsley and, Sheffield City Council had further proposals for improvements towards Meadowhall and then Sheffield City Centre. This would provide a corridor for common journeys.


The second reason was that the development of Sheffield Road closer to the Town Centre would involve more people living in that community. As such, changes needed to be made on the “town-end” of Sheffield Road in any case because of the number of people and vehicles.


The scheme was paid for wholly from external funding for walking and cycling, not from the Council’s budget. The scheme would be assessed in due course in terms of safety and the number of people using it.


In his supplementary, Mr Thorp stated that he understood the idea behind the scheme but explained that the literature that had been put out spoke about extending cycling but there was already a Sheffield to Rotherham cycle lane. The Council had used the most carbon-unfriendly way of building a cycle lane instead of just using paint and cones. Sending cyclists across a roundabout and to the wrong side of a road was not going to work. Cyclists would just use the normal road which was now even narrower and would cause the possibility of more accidents. He asked the Leader why this had been done?


The Leader responded that the scheme was designed in line with the latest set of government guidance. The latest rules from the government were specifically not to just use paint and cones to separate cyclists and the cycling community do not believe that a series of white lines offer the protection required.

It was the first one that the Council had done, and it would learn from the process. However, it was designed and built in accordance with those national guidelines in order to provide the maximum level of safety.

2.    Ms Hafsa Yusufi:

Hafsa Yusufi - In 1983, Rotherham Council partook in resisting South African apartheid alongside other local councils across the UK. Rotherham Council once again has the opportunity to stand on the right side of history. Will this Council follow its own proud precedent and take a principled stand against Israeli apartheid, such as by declaring Rotherham to be an Israeli apartheid-free zone?

The Leader responded:
Since the last meeting, the deteriorating situation in Gaza and the wider Middle East was of grave concern to all. We’ve all be horrified by the rising death toll and violence across the region and our hearts go out to all those effected. Rotherham Council and groups across the borough have a proud history of supporting people fleeing violence.

In terms of the question, it was important that Rotherham was a welcoming environment for Israeli citizens just as it was for citizens from other countries around the world. In terms of the opposition to the policies that were implemented by the Netanyahu government, the very right-wing government, we were concerned about these even before the escalation in violence and were now increasingly concerned about those. In terms of making a statement against those, we certainly have no problem in doing so.

There had been a lot of talk about the kind of procurement restrictions that could be put in place by the Council, like what happened in 1983 with the boycott of South Africa. The government were currently legislating specifically to prevent Council’s from taking that kind of action, specifically against Israel. The Council needed to be on the right side of the rules, it could not be in breach of the law. However, the Leader confirmed that he was happy to have a conversation regarding what kind of signal the Council could send.

In her supplementary question, Ms Yusufi stated that she was confused over certain things that had happened over the past few months regarding how the Council operates. Firstly, regarding how Councillor Ball presented a motion, spoke to it and then retracted it which wasted a lot of the publics time. Secondly, Ms Yusufi had been told that on the day of the meeting that questions were supposed to be towards a specific Councillor however at the last meeting she had tried to direct her question at her ward Councillors but was told this was not allowed. Finally, Ms Yusufi raised concerns in relation to the way petitions were run and conflicting information on the website compared to that being provided by the Council.


The Constitution states that the Council aims to adhere to the concepts of accountability and transparency. In light of that, Ms Yusufi asked if the Councillors that had stated that they had made representations to the government would make those public so that they could be seen by the residents of Rotherham? In terms of the other procedural issues, could further clarification be provided so that when residents want to engage with local democracy, they can do so in a very clear and understandable manner? 

The Leader stated that he shared Ms Yusufi’s frustration regarding the events at the last Council meeting. It had not just wasted her time but had wasted everyone’s time. It was disrespectful. In regard to Council questions, the Leader understood the confusion. The premise of questions to the Council in the Council meeting were that questions needed to be addressed to Cabinet or to a Chair of a committee. The Cabinet, the administration, spoke on behalf of the Council. As such, questions were not able to be put to back benchers. There was a rule that said questions had to relate to affairs of the borough and the Leader understood that there had been some confusion regarding this prior to the meeting. They needed to specifically relate to things the Council was doing or could do in future. Usually, this meant that things that related to foreign policy issues were outside the remit of Council questions but occasionally there was overlap. The Leader confirmed that colleagues in Democratic Services would be happy to discuss with Ms Yusufi how the submit questions that complied with the Council’s rules.

Ms Yusufi had also asked if the Council would make public any of the correspondence. The Leader stated that he thought they would be able to do that and where things could be shared, they would be.