Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Labour led East Renfrewshire Council administration miss yet another opportunity to do right by local residents

Having just spent 3 hours attending the Full Council meeting of East Renfrewshire Council, I find myself struggling to find an appropriate form of words to describe just how little the Labour led administration of our Council understands the world we live in and the problems their constituents face.

One issue in particular clearly demonstrates their disconnect with reality and I write about it in the hope that making this information as widely accessible as possible will embarrass the Council into reconsidering its position.

Independent Councillor for Netherlee, Stamperland and Williamwood, Ralph Robertson, proposed a motion tonight that would in effect have changed Council policy relating to the right of residents to protect their property by permitting them to gate lanes adjacent to their property where these lanes are being used by those intent on disrupting the lives of local people. The right of everyone to live without the fear of preventable anti-social behaviour is fundamental to our belief system and democracy and yet in East Renfrewshire your privacy is no longer sacrosanct as far as our Council is concerned.

For some time Stamperland has been blighted by youth disorder, with lanes used by ferrule youths as a place to drink or as a place in which they can avoid police - as they traverse quickly between streets using lanes as a short cut.

In proposing his motion Councillor Robertson provided evidence of Councils supporting their local communities across the UK by allowing residents to protect their property, privacy and safety by erecting gates to private lanes. From Liverpool to Glasgow, Ralph provided detail case studies on the success of gating lanes as a measure to tackle anti-social behaviour. In all every case the result of erecting gates has been immediate success in stopping anti-social behaviour simply by making problem lanes inaccessible.

Seconding the motion, Conservative Councillor Gordon McCaskill talked about the right of residents to privacy and pointed to a recent High Court judgement that everyone has a right to privacy in their own home regardless of any requirement of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act.

What then followed dismayed everyone in the public gallery and remains nothing short of a disgrace.

In proposing an amendment to the motion, which basically supported the Council's current policy, Councillor Eddie Phillips asserted the current policy relates back to a time of Conservative governance. As the Stamperland gate issue only became an issue in 2002/03 and relates to the Land Reform Act which came into effect in 2001 I am struggling to understand whether he believes it was the last Conservative administration of Eastwood District Council in 1995 or the last Conservative government at Westminster in 1997 that is to blame for the current failed and discredited policy? This is quite simply nonsense and a simple attempt to politicise an issue that should be beyond Party politics.

Then in a sensational contribution by Councillor Montague, who is supposed to represent the Stamperland area, she described anti-social behaviour in the area as "perceived" instead of "real".

A more out of touch and insensitive statement you could not make up!

Councillor Montague reeled off a host of statistics to try and suggest that there is no youth disorder issue in the Stamperland area only to find that moments later Leader of the Council, Councillor Jim Fletcher, spoke specifically about additional policing resource having been deployed into Stamperland over the summer to tackle anti-social behaviour - a reference I believe to the much publicised deployment of mounted police on Stamperland streets as well as a regular dog branch presence.

After all was said and done, Councillors votes 8 for Councillor Robertson's motion and 12 for the administration's amendment. This makes a mockery of the Council's motto "Working For You".

Truth be told East Renfrewshire Council's administration only care about their political pet projects.

Later in the meeting the administration's Councillors voted through plans to move ahead with a College while admitting they have not undertaken any research among local unemployed or young people as to whether they would attend a College in Barrhead - despite this being their specific target demographic.

In committing the best part of £9 million of Council Tax money when no economic case for this expenditure has not been proven the Council demonstrate once again they have no empathy with their electorate.

When everyone else is eliminating all nonessential expenditure, East Renfrewshire Council are prepared to gamble £9 million of your money on a project that may or may not prove to be of value. By the time any College is designed and built the current economic downturn will have passed and there is no guarantee places will be filled as employment prospects improve for those leaving school. Equally the demographics of East Renfrewshire suggest there will be fewer young people seeking college places in five years time and then again five years later. None of this was disputed by the administration tonight and yet all twelve members of the administration voted to move forward with this project when they could have postponed their decision by one month to allow research on local demand to take place - as suggested by Conservative Group Leader, Councillor Jim Swift.

I want to see a safe and prosperous East Renfrewshire. For that reason I intend to continue to champion the right of Stamperland residents to erect gates to their own private property and to support the principle of an East Renfrewshire College if, and only if, the Council can prove there is a demand for it among the people who are being asked to pay for it. This seems to me to be a logical position to take - it is only a shame it is a mirror image position to that of Labour led East Renfrewshire Council.

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