Netherlee & Stamperland Community Council
Newton Mearns Community Council
The last 12 months have been an intensive learning curve, as the new Community Council was somewhat of an unknown entity to most of us.
At this point, I'd like to place on record, my gratitude to all members who went out of their way to assist me in learning the ropes and I'd particularly like to name and shame James Sandeman without whom I question whether we would have achieved anything over the last year.
James, coupled with his previous years of Community Council experience, has provided wise, reasoned and informed counsel.
I'd also like to mention our hard working secretary Eleanor Johnston. She has only been ensconced in the role, wilfully foisted on her by me, for a couple of months, yet has greatly contributed to easing of the workload and administration.
Lastly on this topic, I'd like to record my gratitude to our former Treasurer and minute secretary John Smith and his part successor external minute secretary Sandie MacIntosh without whom we would undoubtedly be acting ultra vires. Newton Mearns is the largest suburb in Europe and this is reflected by the scale and diversity of the issues we encounter.
The last year has been spent putting in place solid foundations, in terms of establishing the skill sets and particular interests of members, engaging with the community and providing easily accessible links to enable us to engage and deliver results for Newton Mearns residents.
We started with 19 members climbed to 20 then dropped back around April to a low of 10, as members who preferred to only attend monthly meetings, realised that we expected more from them.
Those who felt unable to engage positively, disengaged, leaving us with an enthusiastic and committed team which current numbers 13 and the numbers are still climbing. The more visible we become the more people are prepared to step forward and help.
We set our sights high, specifically focussed on delivery of permanent rather than short term results, and currently have sub-groups on planning, community, community safety, council finances and health.
Our conveners of these groups, together with the secretary form our executive committee, who meet a fortnight before our main Community Council meeting.
In addition, most executive members are in contact on a daily basis, and able to respond speedily to requests, from residents or the Council without waiting for the next monthly meeting.
We also held 12 full meetings over the last 12 months. Our decision to continue to meet over and throughout the summer months was fully vindicated, by enabling us to respond swiftly, in full, to various papers from both ERC and the Scottish Government, whereas some other Community Councils were unable to participate.
Highlights of the year included a birthday party for Ms. Ella Rae's 90th. at Whitelees, an informative tour of Whitelees windfarm including the normally off-limits control room. We held three open nights in May at different locations and conducted a survey of local residents views.
Alex Neill, the Housing Minister, sent along an assistant to address us on affordable housing and last month we were delighted to be addressed by 13 year old Briony Allan on her epic 97 mile 10 day hike along the length of the West Highland way, to raise money for the British Lung foundation and the mentoring service at Eastwood High School. We were delighted to be in a position to donate to Briony's fund raising.
Lessons were undoubtably learned from these events and hopefully we can build on that knowledge base to deliver enhanced results in the future.
We also have close to finalisation, a masterplan for Newton Mearns to go forward with, until 2025. Obviously this will require periodic revisitation and adjustment as we ride the economic storm ahead of us. Relationships have been established and cemented with Directors of services at ERC, CHCP, our Schools, The Avenue and Greenlaw shopping centres and we look forward to working with them in the coming years.
We have introduced a number of initiatives over the year:-
1. Questions to ERC Cllrs now go to them in writing, 10 days prior to our monthly meeting, in the expectation that they will be able to deliver answers at our forthcoming meeting, rather than have them be ambushed with questions to which they are not in possession of immediate answers.
2. We have as of this month, supplied questions going back to February 2010 in a database type format to ensure not only that no question goes unanswered, but those questions and answers are available for reference in the future to prevent ERC Cllrs repeatedly dealing with the same issues over and over again.
3. Planning submissions from NMCC now go to all 20 ERC Cllrs as well as planning officials to assist the Planning Application Committee members by having instant personal access to our recommendations based on input from the local community.
4. We will organise site visits and invite Planning Application Committee members, as well as planning and road officials to attend, so they can see first hand what we see and how we reach our conclusions.
The first of these took place in relation to the application to extend the Avenue.
Two Cllrs did attend the Avenue visit and found the exercise of value.
A site visit is likely to be arranged for Eastwood High School once the planning application is lodged.
5. We recognise the need to work harder to build trust and confidence with ERC Cllrs. Some have responded more positively and constructively than others as reflected by their attendance at Community Council meetings.
Top of the attendance league is Cllr Jim Swift on 75% attendance and I take the opportunity to thank both Cllr Jim Swift and Cllr Tony Buchanan who have blazed a trail of support, assistance and delivery that we hope others will strive to emulate.
As with everything there is considerable room for improvement with one ERC Cllr only scoring a disappointingly low 8.3% attendance.
We do recognise the other calls on ERC Cllrs time, but we specifically re-arranged our schedule of meetings to fall on the 2nd Monday of each month as we were given to believe that night was normally free of Council duties.
We hope to convince all Cllrs to attend all Community Council meetings whenever possible.
Interestingly in my visits to 6 other CC's, with two exceptions, one due to the meeting being an additional meeting to their normal schedule, all the CC's have had a full complement of their allocated ERC Cllrs present.
Indeed the same three Cllrs happily attend Clarkston, Busby & Eaglesham CC's.
Some NM ERC Cllrs have only one CC meeting not three to attend and many community councillors agree with me that ERC Cllrs are not pulling their weight nor acting in their residents interests by repeatedly failing to attend our meetings.
Even the Council leader and Provost attended Thornliebank's meeting last Tuesday. 6. Starting from our October meeting we will allocate time in the agenda for ERC Cllrs to update us on activities and developments within the council and external bodies in their particular areas of responsibility or interest.
7. We also welcome members of the public to our monthly meeting and as from our October meeting we ask Community Councillors to form a rota to be in attendance from 6.45pm to allow 15 minutes for members of the public to informally raise issues or concerns with CC's.
This will be for a three month trial to gauge resident response.As always we prefer our primary method of contact to be through email or by telephone.
8. We are pursuing a "no cold caller" zone for householders in Newton Mearns and gratefully acknowledge the support of Glennifer Estates PLC for their assistance.
9. In an effort to ensure that our minutes accurately record our meetings, we no longer release our draft minutes until they have received members approval at the following full monthly meeting.
We would commend this practice to ERC where we were surprised to note that minutes from one committee, could be and were approved by the next sitting committee, even though sitting members may not have been present at the meeting whose minutes they approved.
10. We have extended an invitation to other Eastwood based CC's for a meeting to promote closer co-operation and collaboration.
11. We are now seeking funding for the development of a proper NMCC website whose primary function will be to enhance communication with the residents. As local notices are advertised in a paper which few household receive, the website may prove to be an invaluable means of communication.
Finally, I would like to thank all our Community Councillors for their hard work and positive contributions in pulling together as a team.
I also thank those members who for various reasons resigned during the course of the last year for any positive contributions they made.
Looking to the future, I can only promise next year will require even more hard work by committed Community Councillors, probably a lot more, but I hope our Community Councillors can take away a real sense of satisfaction in a job well done.
David Jesner13th September 2010