Rotherham Council prepares for shake up as authority boundaries are redrawn
A shake up of the way Rotherham Council works to improve its neighbourhoods is expected next year as the authority boundaries for its 'wards', or local areas, are redrawn.
Members of the ruling Cabinet are being asked to use the opportunity to abandon its current arrangement of seven neighbourhood housing panels, which each has its own budget to help pay for improvements specific to that area's council tenants.
That system is now seen as outdated, with the areas no longer reflecting the geography of the borough and that situation will be exacerbated by the introduction of new ward boundaries.
So instead, a system of 25 new 'housing hubs', each aligned to one council ward, is being proposed.
Overall funding levels would remain unchanged at just over £200,000 a year from the borough council, but the way it is divided up would change.
At present, each of the panels gets a 'base' budget of £8,000, topped up with cash to reflect the number of council houses in the area.
In future, each hub would get a base payment of £4,000, leaving the rest to be distributed to reflect numbers of council homes.
According to Rotherham Council, the existing system of panels has seen declining input from the communities they serve, with a need to instil more community involvement.
It is envisaged the new system will involve councillors from each ward and there will be potential to draw in additional cash for projects through 'match funding' from outside sources.
The panels system has attracted criticism in the past because the most disadvantaged areas of Rotherham tend to have higher numbers of council homes than the most affluent.
Community campaigner Mick Sylvester has argued that has left the council's cash spread more thinly among residents where the needs are greatest.
The new proposal would still use that system, but with more of the money handed out in the base payments to ward hubs, it would leave less to be allocated specifically on council house numbers.