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.


(1)  Mr. S. Currie asked due to the amount of traffic and students using this dangerous crossing pinch point outside the school gate, why had Kimberworth Community Primary School not been considered for an automated pedestrian crossing?


The Leader responded that had been a request but it dated back some time.  The Leader was happy to take that through the process.


In a supplementary question Mr. Currie asked if Kimberworth, St. Bede’s, Blackburn, Meadow View or Redscope could not get an automated crossing when children crossed the road twice a day, what criteria had been required for the all singing and dancing crossing on Meadowbank Road at the bottom of Pembroke Street, which was effectively a road to nowhere.


The Leader confirmed he would need to consult with Highways.  The crossing on Meadowbank Road was following a request from the community.   He would ask that the technical details be provided with a response in writing.


(2)  Mr. Thorp was unable to attend the meeting so he would receive a response in writing.


(3)  Dr. M. Yusufi explained this Council had adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. However, this definition was heavily contested due to its conflation of Judaism with Zionism. 104 civil society organisations have warned that the IHRA definition infringed upon freedoms of speech and harmed the fight against antisemitism. Dr. Yusufi asked would this Council consider adopting a more universally accepted definition, like the UN's framework on anti-Semitism?


Councillor Alam, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services, Community Safety and Finance, confirmed that when the Council adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism it also stated its abhorrence for all forms of racism.  That position remained unchanged.


He understood that three quarters of councils used the IHRA definition and that this definition was recognised by the United Nations. So while some people have offered a critique, it remained the most widely used definition and, therefore, logical for this Council to continue to recognise it.


In a supplementary question Dr. Yusufi asked about the 104 organisations that have raised concerns against this and asked the Council to think about this.


Councillor Alam confirmed the issues raised would be considered.


(4)  Ms. H.Yusufi indicated that 66% of the British public wanted a ceasefire. Yet M.P.’s have vilified all those actively calling for this as ‘intolerant’ ‘Islamic extremists’.  Disturbingly, in spite of this Council’s Equality Duty and the diverse nature of Rotherham, some members of this Council have publicly supported this blatantly Islamophobic narrative. Ms. Yusufi asked would the Leader and the Cabinet challenge and condemn this divisive rhetoric?


Councillor Alam, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services, Community Safety and Finance, thanked Ms. Yusufi for her question and confirmed he too wanted to see a ceasefire.  He had written to the Foreign Secretary calling for this and confirmed the Leader had also recently written to the Prime Minister to seek an immediate ceasefire.


The Council was committed to delivering its duties as set out in its Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Strategy. The Council did and would continue to challenge prejudicial language and behavior.


The Council had invested considerable time over many years to foster good community relations and would continue to do so. However, the influence of the Council was more limited on matters of national and foreign policy.


Some M.P.’s and others had made unacceptable statements without going beyond the law.  Members of public could challenge the actions of Members of Parliament and also express their concerns over the stances taken in parliament and national policy.


As part of a supplementary question Ms. Yusufi pointed out it was inaccurate to blame this on the Tories as Labour were also complicit, so rather than throw mud and hold party allegiance she asked what were people doing for the people of Rotherham rather than the public petitioning or asking questions.


Councillor Alam explained he would always call out racism in officers and Councillors.  Some of these statements were unacceptable.


(5)  Mr M. Y. Ashraf referred to the Economic Activity of Public Bodies Bill, or 'anti-boycott bill', which was currently making its way through the House of Lords. The Bill, if passed, would infringe upon this Council's ability to exercise its spending powers in line with the values of Rotherham residents. He asked would the Cabinet of this Council take a public stance against this infringement of the local autonomy.


The Leader confirmed that as a general rule it would.  Advice from the Local Government Association indicated the changes were minimal.  The Council had not yet made representations on this and as it would appear the reason for the Government bringing in this legislation was to provoke a response.


In a supplementary question Mr. Ashraf asked with the boycotting of South Africa would this Council do the same for Israel given the moral obligations, genocide and ethical cleansing not being permitted when Israel was illegally occupying the West Bank preventing people living on their own land.


The Leader did not disagree with what the questioner had said, but pointed out the Council had to act within the law.  The Council was, therefore, very limited in the steps it could take as you have described.


(6)  Ms. U. Yusufi explained over 4,000 Rotherham citizens from a diverse background have signed this petition, calling for a ceasefire. The message was clear: wanting urgent action and accountability. As the Council neared Purdah and given the timecritical nature of the issue what meaningful action would the Leader and Cabinet Members commit to in response to the petition and over what timescale?


The Leader confirmed this had been answered as part of the petition debate where a commitment had been given to look at the issues further over the course of the next few months.


In a supplementary question Ms. Yusufi pointed out she had heard a two-month timescale, but highlighted the importance of  other issues as words on their own were not enough and meaningful economic action needed to be taken to end this violence and bring justice.  She reiterated how keen she and others were to be involved and wanted to know how the Council could involve residents in more meaningful action.


The Leader confirmed that the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board, Councillor Clark, would facilitate this open debate and conversation and would ensure contact was made with lead petitioners over the next few weeks.


(7)  Ms. A. Rahim explained that in 1983, Rotherham Borough Council became a member of the National Steering Committee for Local Authority Action Against Apartheid and worked with local councils across the country to co-ordinate anti-apartheid actions. Following its own precedent, would Rotherham establish a joint committee with other local councils to combat Israeli apartheid, as it did against South African apartheid?


The Leader explained there had not been a plan until now to consider concerns within the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board about what may and may not be done with reduced resources, but discussions would be facilitated over the next few months.  The action the Council took in the 1980’s resulted in the legislation which curtailed what could be done.


In a supplementary question Ms. Rahim pointed out that there had been action in the past, but this was just basically the same that the Israelis were now doing.  It was difficult to find any difference how this could issue be treated differently.  She asked could the Leader give her a timescale when the public could expect some response on this issue.


The Leader confirmed a meeting would be facilitated within the course of the next few weeks and this would determine what could and could not be done.  He understood the strength of feeling on this matter  and it was worth exploring and this would be done fairly quickly to make sure those voices were heard within the timeframe described.

(8)  Mr. M. Norton asked why had the Council sponsored and allowed a house in an established residential street such as Spinneyfield, with clear restrictive covenants, to be converted as a small care home business when the most cost-effective option and least disruptive for all Council tax payers would be to use bespoke new build properties?


Councillor Lelliott, Cabinet Member, Jobs and the Local Economy, responded and confirmed this was not a Council property.  The building and services at 24 Spinneyfield was a private development and the Council had no power to ‘not allow’ a house to be used by a company for a single adult household. The use of a house for up to six adults living together as a single household and receiving care did not require planning permission.


The covenant was a civil matter in which the Council had no involvement and this had already been communicated to residents in the area.


The current planning matter related to ramps and was subject to a planning application.


In a supplementary question Mr. Norton asked if a management plan had been seen for this business and why had it not it been published and available on the Planning portal.


Councillor Lelliott explained this property did not require planning permission.  There were different categories relating to a Category 3 house and this was split into 3 sub-categories:-


C3(a) covered use by a single person or a family (a couple whether married or not, a person related to one another with members of the family of one of the couple to be treated as members of the family of the other), an employer and certain domestic employees (such as an au pair, nanny, nurse, gardener etc), a carer and the person receiving the care and a foster parent and foster child.


C3(b) up to six people living together as a single household and receiving care e.g. supported housing schemes such as those for people with learning disabilities or mental health problems.


C3(c) allowed for groups of people (up to six) living together as a single household. This allowed for those groupings that did not fall within the C4 HMO definition, but which fell within the previous C3 use class, to be provided for i.e. a small religious community may fall into this section as could a homeowner who is living with a lodger.


Therefore under Planning law there was no authority to stop this household functioning as a household.  These were six people living together and getting the support they needed and the Council had no functions under law to prevent this as it was not breaking the law.


(9)  Mr. K. Ollivant explained RMBC continued to ignore covenants against business use on Spinneyfield. Despite a Consultant’s report, assurances given from September’s meeting and against the Council’s own Planning Enforcement Officer’s findings the Council now supported Rhodos Properties avoiding any proper consultation for their care home development. They have stonewalled for months so asked was there now a conflict of interest apparent between Social Services wants and our rights?


Councillor Lelliott, Cabinet Member, Jobs and the Local Economy, responded and reconfirmedplanning permission was not required for up to six adults to live together and receive care.  There was no requirement to publicly consult as no planning permission was required.


This was a family home with people living together and getting the care they needed by a private company.


The issue of the covenant was a civil matter.


The current planning matter related to ramps and was subject to a planning application.  Any property on Spinneyfield that required ramps would be subject to the same thing.  Officers have been out and Planning Officers content that they were not breaking planning laws.


In a supplementary question Mr. Ollivant pointed out that in following the positive meeting the Cabinet Member and Nigel Hancock when assurance was given by our own independent expert provided why was it that the Council still was not considering it to be C2 use  with the parking alone for seven cars suggesting a C2 use when the streets of Spinneyfield were single family dwellings.   Twenty-four hour care was a C2 use  so why was the Council not considering C2 use as considerations to actual planning requirements.


Councillor Lelliott pointed out she had already explained about the use, but would ask that Planning Officers send this in detail in writing.