Agenda item


To receive a statement from the Leader of the Council in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 9.


The Leader presented his statement and wished everyone a Happy New Year. He stated that the Council were making good progress on the commitment to hundreds of new council homes. Since the last meeting the 500th new home since 2018 had been delivered as part of the Housing Delivery Programme. The Council had also bought its first property under the Right To Buy – Right of First Refusal scheme in East Dene. The Leader noted that this policy was a double-edged sword in that more council houses were needed to give Rotherham residents safe, affordable, warm places to live and in some cases, this could be done most cost effectively by buying back houses and properties that were lost under the Right to Buy Scheme. That did not negate the fact that the system was completely nonsense. The Council were forced to sell Council housing stock under the Right to Buy Scheme at a massive discount. Although the receipts were kept by the Council, they did not cover the cost of replacing those properties. Further, buying those same properties back later, at an inflated value from a private owner, was a waste of public money. The Leader believed this to be a farce and stated that the Council was doing the things possible within the legal framework but stated that the legal framework had to change.

In December 2023, the annual staff awards were celebrated for the public servants that went above and beyond in the service of the borough. The Leader also spoke at the Rotherham Together Partnership Community Achievement Awards at the New York Stadium which celebrated the best of Rotherham’s Voluntary and Community Sector.

Councillor Lelliott had officially opened the new Century II Business Incubator at Manvers which included a more environmentally friendly building, a £5.4m investment in 20 new workshops, 16 offices and two labs. Nearly all of these were already filled, supporting new businesses to create jobs and opportunities in the north of the borough.

The Leader confirmed that in the previous week he had visited the Stagecoach depot at Rawmarsh where work had begun on charging infrastructure for South Yorkshire’s first electric bus fleet.

The latest round of the Energy Bill Crisis Grants was now open. The Leader stated that too many people were still suffering from the cost of living crisis with more than 13,000 local people in receipt of direct financial support with the cost of living pressures from the Council over the last two years. The additional funding would benefit up to two and a half thousand more people.

The Leader advised that he and Councillor Lelliott were at the topping out ceremony for Forge Island along with senior staff from Arc Cinema. They were very excited about the prospect of the cinema opening. The Council were very excited to be working with them. The development was on track to be delivered in Summer 2024 as part of the Town Centre regeneration. 

Councillor Bennett-Sylvester asked a question in relation to the housebuilding programme, the Right to Buy Scheme and the declining circle it placed the Council in. One of the other pressures was land availability and the Council tended to use land it already owned. This is what had happened on a number of small sites in East Herringthorpe and each one had led to a loss of green space, spaces that could be used for dog walking etc. Cumulatively, between Herringthorpe Valley Road and Dalton Lane, there had been around 200 houses built but not much in the way of community development. Going forward, as well as just numbers, could more be done to look at the cumulative impact on communities and what could be done to attract community investment such as community centres and play areas?


In response to Councillor Bennett-Sylvester, the Leader stated that he understood the point around the cumulative impact. However, there was a huge challenge as the Council had prioritised the building of council homes for those on the waiting list. Therefore, the ability of the Council to spend money, money that would otherwise be spent on housebuilding, on community facilities was curtailed. The Leader stated that he understood Councillor Bennett-Sylvester’s point and that he understood the challenge that faced communities, but he would not apologise for the priority given to home building. The challenge related to the planning rules and requirements. Progress was to be made in relation to local labour requirements with a report due to be presented to Cabinet in January 2024. The Leader could not commit to the development of more community facilities in the way described. He was happy to hold further conversations but could not make any commitments.

Councillor Reynolds asked a question in relation to the Whinney Hill development and the associated finances. He specifically asked who had built the houses? Who was Homes England? Who put the bricks and mortar down – who built them? Who gave them the land? What did they pay for the land and what was the return? Councillor Reynolds stated that it was a wonderful development. In relation to community, the area used to be very depressed and for a while was abandoned with demolished houses. There were concerns over who would get to move into the new development in order to create the community to ensure that the houses stayed nice and well kept.


Councillor Reynolds also stated the positives of the Right to Buy Scheme.


In response to Councillor Reynolds question, the Leader stated that it was a consortium of housing associations that were responsible for the Whinney Hill development. They were not HRA Council properties, but the Council did have some nomination rights so some of those waiting for council homes would be entitled to them. The Leader confirmed that he was happy to get Councillor Reynolds a written response on how the deal was put together in the first place.


The Leader also clarified who Homes England was. It was a government agency that funded housing developments that may not have happened otherwise. It was part of the government and part of the funding that had been put together for the Whinney Hill site come from them. Homes England also helped with some of the Town Centre developments.