Here’s East Renfrewshire Green Laura Stevens with a report on recent developments with our community councils:
On 24th June East Renfrewshire Council (ERC) voted to bring in a new Scheme of Establishment for Community Councils (CC). This was in spite of the fact that the area’s CCs were already halfway through an elected term. ERC had been heavily criticised for rushing through this Scheme in light of the Community Empowerment Bill. The new Scheme also dissolved Newton Mearns Community Council, which has been split into two separate areas: Broom, Kirkhill and Mearnskirk, and Crookfur, Greenfarm and Mearns Village with no consultation of the residents in the Newton Mearns ward. Nominations opened on the 12th August and closed at noon on Friday 11th September, with concerning results.
Breaking News: A statement released today by members of the Newton Mearns Community Council states they will continue to function under that name, serving the people of the community.
Screenshot taken from Newton Mearns Community Council Facebook page on 12th September 2015
Over half of East Renfrewshire Community Councils ceased to exist at noon today (Friday 11th September). Only 5 community councils out of 11 have elected enough members to allow them to re-establish. This means that over half of East Renfrewshire’s population has no access to a community council and the support and advice they can offer.
It is alarming that existing Community Councillors have chosen to effectively resign from their posts and not seek nomination. What could have lay behind their decision?
Perhaps the new Code of Conduct sheds some light on this. Many Community Councillors have refused to seek re-nomination in protest against its introduction. The introduction of a new disciplinary process has caused the most outcry (see Section 12 Scheme of Establishment).
Any complaints made against a Community Council or Community Councillor can be brought before a panel. This panel comprises of 3 Councillors and 2 Community Councillors. However, any decisions passed by the panel can be ratified by a quorum of 3 members. It is not difficult to speculate that perhaps decisions passed at these panels may favour the Council’s interests, rather than the good of the community.
Because, after all, that’s what Community Councils are there for. To act as a link between the community and the Council. The lack of engagement with this new scheme from across East Ren highlights how little faith there is in our local government.
A statement released this afternoon by Councillor Mary Montague advised “There will be further opportunities for people from other areas to become a community representative in the coming weeks and months.”
East Renfrewshire Greens endorses the introduction of more community involvement in local government, but not on the terms offered by ERC. We would welcome more opportunities to engage with the Council and add our voice to the reforms to local government desperately needed by East Renfrewshire and across Scotland.