To consider any questions which may have been received from Elected Members and which are asked pursuant to Standing Order No. 11.
The Chief Executive reported that she had received the following questions from Councillor Kitching in accordance with Standing Order No. 11:-
(i) Ongoing disruption in Mapplewell lasting over 100 days has severely impacted on the many shops and businesses in the village that rely on passing trade. Scheduled village improvement works have now been completed but there has been further work ongoing in the village from utility companies resulting in ongoing temporary traffic lights. The disruption in the village has left many shops struggling. Businesses have closed and jobs have been lost. On what date will the disruption end?
Councillor Miller Responded as follows:- A rather large housing estate had been built, which had provided a contribution to improve the infrastructure in the village. Councillors had consulted on the works with residents and business, but unfortunately there had been a slight delay due to the utility company. One business has closed, but this was due to the end of a short term lease on a small shop. On-going work is being carried out and resurfacing is due to take place on a Sunday morning to avoid disruption to businesses, and meetings have taken place with businesses to discuss this, with relatively positive feedback from the businesses that attended.
Councillor Kitching asked the following supplementary question: - ‘Would the Council be able to commit to further consultation processes with the business owners and residents in the village before they undertake any more planned works in the next 12 months. We understand the works have to be undertaken, but can we have a reassurance please that the consultation will be ongoing?’
Councillor Miller responded as follows:- Contact had been made with a number of shopkeepers, who would like further meetings, which would be held, and consultation will continue.
(ii) I have read the press reportsregarding slow progress to install gas central heating systems in homes in Woolley Colliery village, leading to some of our most vulnerable people being at risk over the coming winter. I note the deep concern expressed by Councillors Howard and Miller over the issue. What urgent action is the Council taking to resolve the issue before another winter kicks in?
Councillor Miller responded as follows: - Most of the houses in the area use coal fired central heating, with many elderly people experiencing difficulties. Gas is available in the village but the supply needs extending to the properties, with some residents unable to meet the costs of doing so. Consultation will take place with residents, recognising the importance of protecting the elderly and vulnerable.
Councillor Kitching asked the following supplementary question:- ‘Are you at the point now where you have scheduled dates for the work to take place for central heating to be installed in Woolley Colliery Village?’
Councillor Miller responded as follows:- Dates are being considered, and it was agreed that they be supplied after the meeting.
(iii) Does the Cabinet member believe that withdrawing the facility for kerbside paper recycling and asking residents to pay for an alternative is a good way to maintain and increase recycling rates in the borough?
Councillor Miller responded as follows: - A kerbside collection was installed in 2014/15 and every property within the borough was provided with four bins. A number of properties did not want the blue bins and returned them. It was stated that service was not being taken away but that the collection of paper and card was being combined, which many authorities are doing. There has been a decline in the tonnage of paper collected, and a corresponding increase in the cardboard, and a strategic decision had been taken which had made recycling easier. Residents were not asked to pay for bins, but for their delivery. Barnsley has a very high return and an increase of 5-10% in recycling had been seen following the introduction of co-mingled service.
Councillor Kitching asked the following supplementary question: - ‘Would Councillor Miller be willing to meeting with me, relevant officers and any of my colleagues who would like to join us, to discuss a discretionary one off waiver of the delivery charge for residents who have never had a blue bin and would like to continue recycling their paper waste?’
Councillor Miller responded as follows: - That he is happy to meet Councillor Kitching but would not be looking to support the waiver of the delivery charge due to the cuts to public services.
(iv) Councillor Miller will be aware of the recent PR disaster in Sheffield, where the Council pressed ahead with its incredibly unpopular programme of felling healthy street trees, despite widespread public opposition from individuals keen to preserve greenery, air quality and wildlife habitat. There is increasing public opposition to the Council’s plans to turn Penny Pie Park into a gyratory system, including from local school children. What lessons has the Leader learned from the controversy in Sheffield, and will he consider alternatives to the proposed plans which preserve homes and this public green space?
Councillor Miller responded as follows:- For some time there had been an difficulties with vehicle congestion on Dodworth Road, 34 potential schemes had been considered to improve traffic flows from the motorway in to Barnsley. One of the schemes considered was to install a filter lane to turn left, which would have meant the loss of garden for 10 houses and two houses would be lost completely, which would only increase capacity for five years, with the gyratory proposed providing capacity for 25 years. A number of people living in the area were happy that the Council had been looking at the issue.
Issues with standing traffic on the motorway slip road and the traffic lights being used incorrectly were noted. Though meetings were being held with protestors, the issues many users of the route had experienced with delays when getting to the hospital due to the volume of traffic had also to be taken into account
Assurances were given that genuine concerns will be listened to and addressed where possible, but wider aspects such as the impact on business, on the hospital and the future growth of Barnsley had to be taken into account.
Councillor Kitching asked the following supplementary question: - ‘If the Cabinet Member believes that people are incapable of using traffic lights correctly, how is he going to explain to my residents from the west of the borough how they now have to go through one set of traffic lights to having to go through four sets of traffic lights will improve their journey time?’
Councillor Miller responded as follows:- The gyratory scheme would allow the traffic lights be sequenced to ensure a better traffic flow away from the roundabout to town. A left hand filter lane is vital to those accessing the hospital.
Meetings will continue to be held and concerns will be listened to but the overriding concerns were congestion and air quality at the junction, which need to be improved.
(v) How many full time Trade Union convenors does the Council employ as officers and therefore pay salaries for? What is the cost to the Council of each of these individuals?
Councillor Franklin responded to as follows:- The Council employs 5 full time convenors at a cost is £165,000, of this two salaries are met out for the schools budget. One GMB member at £34,000, two Unison full time convenors at £82,000, with the NASUWT position at £48,000, and the NEU (NUT branch) convenor post currently being vacant. Employing convenors meant that it was easier to deal with a small number of individuals rather than a large number, with the latter leading to services being unavailable and having a corresponding impact on the economy.
Councillor Kitching asked the following supplementary question:- ‘Has this spending led to an overspend on the Human Resources budget in the Council?’
Councillor Franking responded as follows:- It had not.