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Agenda item

Public Questions and Petitions

To receive any questions or petitions from members of the public



Public Question in respect of Vulnerable Children




Nigel Slack asked, following his question about the use of motions at Full Council and in light of the horrendous actions being undertaken in the USA against immigrants and particularly the almost fascistic approach to splitting families and the use of internment camps, will the Council bring forward a motion condemning the actions of the American administration and, as a City of Sanctuary, take a stand against such treatment of vulnerable children and can that be done at the earliest opportunity?




The Leader of the Council (Councillor Julie Dore) commented that she agreed with the sentiments of Mr Slack’s question and the images of children and babies separated from their parents was horrendous. She would look to see if a Notice of Motion could be brought forward but it was not always through that process that the views of the Council could be demonstrated and the Council could look at different ways of doing that. Councillor Dore added that everyone agreed the situation was abhorrent and not acceptable to anyone and she thanked Mr Slack for bringing the question forward.




Public Question in respect of the AMRC




Nigel Slack asked, with the announcement that Rolls Royce will be losing 4,500 jobs in its aerospace division, were the Council aware of any impact on the AMRC or the local supply chain? If not, what was being done to gain information on potential impacts locally?




Councillor Dore responded that Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet Member for Business and Investment, may have more knowledge of the situation, but he was absent at this point in the meeting. Councillor Dore stated that there were around 100 jobs associated with this locally but she was not aware that those jobs were affected.




Councillor Dore added that, where the Council became aware of an announcement regarding an employer in Sheffield, Creative Sheffield worked with that organisation in relation to mitigating the impacts and also with supply chains which could serve the rest of the country. If Mr Slack wished this to be followed up further she would ask Councillor Iqbal to do this.




Public Question in respect of Police and Crime Commissioner Powers




Nigel Slack asked, following the news that, without referral to either local Councils or local people, the Home Secretary had given North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner power over the Fire and Rescue Service, its budget and priorities, what will be the Council’s stance should a similar proposal come to light for South Yorkshire?




Councillor Dore stated that she was not aware of any discussions or suggestions heading in that direction. She believed that consultation in North Yorkshire should have taken place with the residents and people affected and who depended on those critical services. If such a proposal came to South Yorkshire, the Mayoral Authority would consider how to consult, would look at the benefits and disbenefits of the proposal and would make the right decision for the people of South Yorkshire. Councillor Dore could not state the position now as she did not have all the facts.




Public Question in respect of the General Cemetery adjacent to Cemetery Road




Nigel Slack commented that, at the last Council meeting, the Cabinet Member for Transport and Development chose to answer a question about a specific part of the General Cemetery adjacent to Cemetery Road with a grandstanding and party politically charged answer that failed to answer the substance of the question.




Mr Slack added that, in doing so, the Cabinet Member managed to imply that members of the group opposing the recent controversial plans for the Cemetery were against disability rights. Mr Slack believed that was extremely insulting to those members of the group who were themselves disabled (and in one case had campaigned on disability access issues for many years) and seemed to suggest that there were deserving and undeserving voices in that community. It was also disrespectful to the disability access expert, a wheelchair user, whose report the Council requested but then, in an attempt to create a money spinning commercial incursion into this sanctuary space, chose to ignore. Will the Council apologise to the group involved and choose to engage in realistic and open discussions about how both Disability Rights and Heritage Protections can be satisfied?




Councillor Jack Scott (Cabinet Member for Transport and Development) apologised to Mr Slack if his response to the question referred to by Mr Slack had not met Mr Slack’s satisfaction, although he believed the characterisation was unfair. Councillor Scott stated he was hopeful the scheme could be successful based on other similar examples. Councillor Scott had received positive feedback for the clarity he had provided in relation to the scheme and stood by his comments made. He would engage with disability groups.




Public Questions in respect of Selective Licensing




Viv Lockwood introduced his question by stating he was not a Private Landlord or a representative of them. He did think, however, that parts of the proposals for the selective licensing scheme on London Road, Abbeydale Road and Chesterfield Road were unfair. He had attended the consultation event at Bramhall Lane and did not believe that the summary in the report was a fair reflection of that.




Mr Lockwood added that he was in favour of any scheme that generated improvements in the conditions of properties in the private rented sector. However, there were flaws in the way the proposals were designed to operate. He believed there was an injustice that there was a base fee of £750 which all landlords would have to pay. The report stated that this would eventually be passed on to tenants. However, it was unfair that tenants who may be perfectly happy with the condition of their property would eventually have to pay higher rents.




Mr Lockwood further stated that he did not believe the report had reflected that the majority of landlords in the area were good landlords. He believed that the report could be more imaginative and propose a scheme that was welcomed by both tenants and landlords. He proposed that there should be a rebate scheme introduced and if a property was found to be in good condition upon the first inspection the landlord would get a rebate. He also questioned whether properties could be given a star rating similar to hotel and food outlets which would be good for tenants and landlords and would act as an incentive to good landlords and a disincentive to bad landlords.




Sajid Khadur stated that, at the consultation meeting held at Bramall Lane, photos and slides were shown on screen outlining properties which were in bad condition. These were mainly shops with flats above and would be subject to premises licences and all adequate checks would have been done in order for a licence to be granted. He therefore asked why selective licensing needed to duplicate this process?




Mr Khadur further commented that he owned a property in Rotherham which was subject to selective licensing and the value of the property had dropped significantly and he could not get a mortgage for it. He believed Abbeydale Road and London Road was a thriving area and it would be a shame if this scheme was brought in.




Abdullah Khalid asked why didn’t the Council use existing measures available to them which were more powerful than selective licensing. For example, landlords could be fined up to £30k under the Housing and Planning Act. Mr Khalid stated that he owned properties on London Road which were all up to standard and therefore asked why should he be penalised with extra fees?




Mr S Ahmed asked if this scheme genuinely aimed to protect tenants from unsafe properties why were other areas in which landlord-owned flats above commercial properties being ignored? Why was this scheme oriented on a postcode basis while ignoring other adjacent areas of equal or greater need e.g. Woodseats?




Mr Ahmed added that the way the questionnaire was structured was based on a fait accompli that the system proposed was fully sound. There was no provision for any alternative views or proposals to be aired. In Mr Ahmed’s opinion, the conclusion of the consultation was flawed because the original proposal was not flexible enough to allow for other conclusions. Was this therefore a fair and legal consultation document?




Mr Ahmed further asked what was the true fair cost of a site visit? Although the costs of any upgrades will benefit both the landlord and tenant, nonetheless there was a cost. Has any analysis been done to establish the overall costs of the upgrades compared to the revenue generated by the compulsory fee? How much of that fee will actually be seen by the tenant? Mr Ahmed’s concern was that the revenue generated would be a substantial burden for the tenant and the landlord while the compulsory fee will be swallowed up by the Council bureaucracy. This will then impact on tenants who were already facing higher rents when the cost was passed down to them.




In response to the questions, Councillor Jim Steinke (Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety) commented that he appreciated people coming and asking questions and he knew that the issue of selective licensing was an emotive issue. There were other voices who had not been heard at today’s meeting and they were the people who lived in the properties. Councillor Steinke encouraged people to listen to their views which had been expressed on social media and also at the consultation.




Councillor Steinke added that the idea of a rebate scheme had been looked at but the scheme needed to be a self-financing scheme and it was very difficult to predict if a rebate could be offered. The idea of a star rating had also been looked at but the granting of a licence in itself was like a star rating and if a landlord had a licence they could demonstrate that they were a fit and proper landlord. One of the positives about the scheme was the way it would support landlords to become good landlords.




Referring to the suggestion of visiting a property prior to a formal inspection, Councillor Steinke commented that the Council needed to be careful that they were not giving bad landlords the time to cover up things that they may wish not to be seen. There would be spot inspections where there were concerns over premises. The Council was committed to developing a good working relationship with landlords in the area.




The slides shown at the consultation were, Councillor Steinke believed, indicative of some of the conditions people had to live in. These may have been commercial premises. He accepted these might be a minority but there were a significant number of cases found in the preliminary research.




Councillor Steinke had heard contrary views in relation to the value of house properties going down in selective licensing areas but he could look at the implications of this. Evidence from Page Hall showed that the scheme had had a positive impact on house prices and Clive Betts M.P., as the Chair of the House of Commons Select Committee, had stated that selective licensing had a universal positive impact on house prices.




Councillor Steinke confirmed that existing measures would still be used but research had shown that existing issues were so bad that there was need for additional resources to be used.




Councillor Steinke was aware of a number of real improvements landlords had made in the area. It was very difficult to define what were good and bad landlords and to be successful selective licensing needed to be applied across a whole defined area. He believed good landlords had nothing to fear from this scheme.




In respect of why this area had been proposed for the scheme, this was based on the evidence gathered. He was aware within his ward of Nether Edge and Sharrow that there were properties in bad condition but it was right to choose this area for the scheme based on the evidence.




Councillor Steinke did not agree that the questionnaire produced did not allow for alternative conclusions and was open ended. There were a number of extensive responses to this which were reflected in the report on the agenda for the meeting.




Councillor Steinke disputed the view that the costs of the site visit and the income generated were swallowed up by the local authority. It was a ring-fenced budget which would be used for enforcement activities. Multi-agency teams would also be used, so the Council would get added value and, without selective licensing, this would not be possible.