by Laura Stevens, council candidate for Ward 4 – Clarkston, Netherlee and Williamwood
It was good news to hear that Barrhead Community Council were able to overturn one of the unfair constitutional changes implemented by East Renfrewshire Council in 2015.You can read more about this here and here . Under the new Scheme of Establishment, Community Council office bearers are restricted to serving one year before having to give up their post and prevented from seeking re-election up to two years after serving their term of office (see 9.1 & 9.2 of the Scheme). One of the greatest challenges facing community councils is finding enough people willing to give up their time and volunteer to represent their community. Add on this additional criteria and very soon the pool of able volunteers to take on the role of chairperson is going to evaporate very quickly. It also flies in the face of the time spent by the chairperson building up relationships with the Council as well as local businesses, residents and other stakeholders only to have to take a step back from them a year later, leaving a new person to start from scratch.
Community councils should act as a separate body from the Council, only answerable to the community that they represent. Thanks to this new Scheme, they are answerable to the Council who can choose to disband them at anytime and against the wishes of the community. Becoming a Community Councillor in ERC gets less and less appealing. It’s no wonder that some Community Councils in East Renfrewshire are running below quorat numbers and formerly busy and vibrant Community Councils, such as Clarkston, have failed to be re-established after being disbanded by ERC in 2015.
There is only one community council operating in Ward 4. Busby Community Council has remained in operation under the new Scheme of Establishment whilst Clarkston and Netherlee and Stamperland Community Councils have been through at least two attempts to be reignited.
Scotland has 32 local authorities representing just over 5 million people. To contrast, Norway which has a similar population level to Scotland has over 429 councils. There’s a much better connection to local democracy and the power of the community in Scandinavia which is a common thread there and with our European neighbours.. The Scottish Green Party is the only political party in Scotland that supports a bolder approach to the de-centralisation of local services. We trust local residents to know more about the issues that are impacting on them than anyone else, whether that’s having thet the pothole at the end of your street fixed or the lights outside Clarkston or Williamwood train station repaired in time for dark winter nights.
If elected as councillor, I will work with the local community and not against them. I still believe in the power of Community Councillors but this requires more commitment from both the local authority as well as changes in legislation at Holyrood. It is refreshing to see some flexibility coming from East Renfrewshire Council regarding the strict Scheme they have implemented and potentially at the cost of silencing the local community. There are still many improvements to be made and this will inform a key part of my role of councillor should I be elected to represent the residents of Ward 4.
GREEN COUNCILLORS WILL IMPROVE LOCAL DEMOCRACY BY…