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Your listening Council Print E-mail

THE council invited the ten East Renfrewshire Community Councils to send representatives to attend a discussion group on 19th November 2014 at St Ninians High School.

However the offer was restricted to only permit two attendees per CC at only two of the four budget discussion groups.

The event was split into four discussion groups focusing on the service delivery areas of – Education, Community Health and Care, Environment and Community Services, and Culture and Leisure Services.

Community Councils were restricted and prevented from attending the groups that related to Education, Community Health and Care.

We are aware of at least two community councils who specifically requested permission to attend these particular groups, and were denied access by ERC.

The irony is that ERC set up a specific email addy for replies at 'Listening'.

HOWEVER the 'listening' council did what they do best on the day. They did not listen. A member of a local group, who is also an ousted chair of a community council attempted to sit in on the Health group and was ejected from there by council staff, as they claimed he had no permission to join that particular group.

Yet the chair of Giffnock Community Council, Savio D'Souza was permitted to sit on the Health group as he had been provided with special permission.

Community Councillors were banned from this group by ERC, another community group representative was removed on the evening, yet Savio D'Souza has yet again received special privileges and was permitted to sit in on the group discussions.

A person who has been proven to be a repetitive rule breaker when it comes to community councils, and has a past record of being investigated by the council regarding non compliance with land lord legislation and has been arrested by the police on warrant.

Restriction on democratic rights and special privileges to one. Would this ring any bells with historians out there.

Mr D.Souza preparing to offer 'Massages' to punters at the Giffnock Xmas Fair 2014.

Is ERC hemorrhaging money ? Print E-mail

WHILST the council are looking to bridge a £20 million pound budget gap over the next three years, and some of the plans are to lay of staff and close the only council care home, have they failed to stop the basic and unnecessary flow of cash out of the Eastwood Park doors.

Just how did they end up in this mess, did they fail to take care of the pennies which has resulted in the loss of the pounds, which is now leading to the loss of front line staff.

Was it necessary or indeed prudent to gift thousands of pounds to voluntary groups looking to improve Rouken Glen Park, only to find that one group have now disbanded, due to what they claim are the actions of ERC and the other has just disappeared, and all the work that was carried out is now going to waste.

Was is prudent to gift thousands of pounds to a community council, only to find that their accounts did not appear to be wholly accurate and show the distribution of the cash.

Was is wise to gift thousands of pounds to a Gala project, only to find that accounts were not provided.

There are numerous examples of monies being gifted to local groups and never being accounted for or the expenditure fully explained.

Is it really necessary for the Convenor of Community engagement to have access to a fund and permitted to take decisions without the approval of the cabinet as to where she gifts the cash.

Is it prudent that the Provost also has a fund and he to can gift cash as and when he pleases with out the approval of the cabinet.

A Tea dance at a cost of how much, corporate tables at charity functions which start at £500 and go up to £4,000 per table, attended by invited councillors to accompany the Provost for a full meal and drinks throughout the evening, paid for by the Provost.

Housing Benefits overpayments of £15.624.24 written off.

Sports equipment valued at £20,000 gifted to an Pacific island, instead of being sold off.

£40,000 put into a Town Centre Resilience fund for such things as Hanging Baskets and fence painting in Thornliebank.

£120,000 put into a Town Centre Resilience fund for Barrhead in relation to the same type of projects.

Is this council top heavy with overpaid chiefs.

A current advertisement for a Head of Education in East Ayrshire Council shows the salary to be £85,734. Whilst ERC are recorded in 2011 as paying their Head of Education £108,507.

ERC have a Chief Executive and a Deputy at a cost of £135,096 and £116,695 which many other councils only have a Head and no requirement for a deputy.

This council have a large legal team

2 trainees

2 solicitors

1 solicitor (Environment Dept)

3.8 FTE senior solicitors

1 principle solicitor

1 Chief Officer (Legal and Procurement)

The last senior solicitor was on a salary of £113,686

WITH a team of this strength why has the council required to spend and increasing amount of cash on external legal advice, year on year.

THE current administration have been in situ for the past three years and to date they have spent 1/2 million pounds on EXTERNAL legal advice.

It would appear that Jim Fletcher and his band do not understand the meaning of the proverb "look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves"

Meanwhile residential care homes face the prospect of closure, schools will be without police officers and teachers, at least two community wardens will be looking for new jobs.

In addition the cabinet were asked in September 2014 to note a shortfall - in our language 'an overspend' of £357,000

The only exception is that the PR section appears to have recruited yet another member of staff. (Newsline is unable to confirm this as Louisa Mahon, Head of the PR section has refused to converse with us)

How does East Renfrewshire fair with regards to the accuracy of crime recording Print E-mail

THERE has been recent debate concerning the accuracy of crime statistics in England and Wales.

NEWSLINE is aware that during a recent spate of vandalism undertaken on vehicles in the Stamperland area of East Renfrewshire there was concern over the recording of these by the police.

Seven cars in two adjacent streets had their wing mirrors broken off. Many were electric and cost on average £300 per mirror to replace, and the cost of the damage ran into thousands of pounds.

However the costs do not appear on police statistics, it is only the crime and the numbers of crimes.

NEWSLINE would have to suggest that on this occasion recording all of the crime on one crime report, whilst still recording them prevents them appearing on the national crime statistics for East Renfrewshire as seven vandalisms, the national crime statistics shows this as one vandalism, a fact well known to senior officers who would have been responsible for directing that all seven be recorded on one crime report.

IN addition recent activity at Clarkston Toll has gone unrecorded.

DURING the recent referendum campaign this sign was attached to the advertising billboard at Clarkston Toll.

A complaint was made to JCDecaux the advertising company and they sent a team of workers out who uncoupled the sign and removed it.

A complaint was made to the police at Giffnock, however at a recent Community Council meeting the community police sergeant stated that his officers had contacted the advertisers and as they said no damage had been caused, there was no act of vandalism and no report / record / investigation would take place.

Despite JCDecaux requiring to pay for staff to attend and remove the item, despite members of the public being exposed to serious injury or death should the heavy wooden structure have fallen onto any passing pedestrian etc.

NEWSLINE is aware that the placing of this structure could have been treated as a Breach of the Peace by the police and recorded as such and investigated.

In Scotland there is also an offence of Culpable and Reckless Conduct and is a Common Law offence under Scots Law.

The offence has no specific definition but deals with acts involving a criminal degree of recklessness which cause injury to other persons or create a risk of such injury.

Yet East Renfrewshire Police would appear to have chosen to ignore this matter completely.

Has a Cllr 'handed a golden ticket to terrorists' by posting pictures of his security pass on Facebook? Print E-mail

Councillor Vincent Waters has posted a picture of his security pass which will be used to gain entry to the 2014 SNP conference in Perth on his Facebook.

Cllr Waters

Akin to recent coverage concerning high-profile Olympic athletes sparking potential terror alerts by posting pictures of their official Olympic Village passes on Twitter, the photograph shows the Councillors membership number and his branch code.

During the Olympic's several competitors caused security headaches by tweeting high resolution images of their Locog accreditation, just days before the opening ceremony.

Their tweeting of high security passes raised fears that the barcodes - which do not feature infra-red or microchip technology - could be duplicated by fraudsters.

East Renfrewshire SNP Councillor Vincent Waters uploaded a full size version of his accreditation next to a comment which said "Even more excited than usual to get these in post this year"

Conference Pass

But visible in the picture was his full membership number alongside his branch details.

It is thought that any fraudster sophisticated enough to copy a photo of the pass could gain access to the entire venue which is being held at Perth Concert Hall on the 14-15 November 2014.

Threat management firm IPC even believed the carelessly tweeted photos could be a 'golden ticket' into Olympic venues for terrorists and that access to venues could be gained by duplicating the official Locog lanyards from Twitter.

Perth Concert Hall · SNP Annual National Conference 2014

What cost the referendum ? Print E-mail

The latest estimated cost of holding the Scottish independence referendum stands at £13.3m, a rise of about £3m on previous figures.

An impact assessment report to the Scottish Parliament said running the referendum itself would account for £8.6m of the total sum.

Another £4.7m will be spent on regulation and campaign mailshots.

Scotland’s voters went to the polls on 18 September, an impact assessment report to the Scottish Parliament said running the referendum itself would account for £8.6m of the total sum. Another £4.7m will be spent on regulation and campaign mailshots.

The last time the costs of the referendum were looked at was in the Scottish government’s consultation paper Your Scotland – Your Referendum, published at the beginning of last year.

On page eight of the report it said the total cost of the referendum “is likely to be around £10m, the bulk of which will be spent on running the poll and the count”.

The business and regulatory impact assessment report, signed off by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and lodged at Holyrood on 21 March, said the costs associated with the referendum could be separated into four broad categories.

They are:

• Costs of running the referendum incurred by chief counting officers, local counting officers and electoral registration officers

• Costs of funding the Electoral Commission for overseeing and regulating referendum campaigns and reporting on the conduct of the referendum

• Publicity costs incurred by the Electoral Commission in the fulfilment of its duty to provide information to the electorate on how to cast their vote

• The costs of allowing each of the main campaign organisations – Yes Scotland and Better Together – a free mailshot to every elector or household in Scotland.

East Renfrewshire Council was capable of recovering a maximum of £159,276 from the Scottish Government in order to cover administration and payments to staff.

Freedom of Information requests to East Renfrewshire, North Ayrshire (NAC) and South Lanarkshire (SLC) councils were made to make comparisons.

Counting Officers are not subject to FOI legislation and Lorraine McMillan the Chief Executive of ERC refused to reveal how much she was paid for undertaking the role, however NAC had no problem revealing that their Counting Officer was paid the sum of £5,283 for the evenings work.

Lorraine McMillan ERC

ERC employed 45 members of staff at the counting centre and once again Lorraine McMillan was not prepared to share how much she paid these staff, however once again NAC was prepared to do so.

Caroline Inness, Deputy Chief Executive of ERC  was given the post of Count Supervisor, as were Jim Sneddon, Head of Democratic Services and Gerry Mahon, Chief Solicitor to the council.

Their equivalents in SLC were paid £250 gross each, for their roles on the night of the count.

ERC provided their staff with a days paid leave on Friday 19th September 2014.

A spokesperson for ERC said “The Council has a long standing arrangement that they are given the following day off in view of the fact they have been working overnight. Not all staff took up this entitlement.”

Yet none of the other two councils provided staff with paid leave on the Friday.

During the day, polling stations reported unprecedented turnout across the area.

There were queues to vote when many of the polling stations opened at 7am, members of both groups happily chatted away with no hint of the anger that had marred some of the campaign in the closing weeks.

However, advertising company JCDecaux had to call in engineers to remove a pro-Yes structure that had appeared on top of advertising billboards at Clarkston Toll.

Vandalised Billboard

Two Clarkston Community Councillors were observed actively campaigning within the Clarkston area, also outside the polling station and inside at the subsequent count on behalf of the Yes campaign (Known as yessers to activists)

The Community Councillors code of conduct states: You are free to have political and/or religious affiliations; however you must ensure that you represent the interests of your community and Community Council and not the interests of a particular political party or other group.

Given that Ccllrs are meant to be available and responsive to the community at all times, we would have to ask if these activities are in keeping with the CC code of conduct.

To have your own opinions as an individual is right and proper, however to take these onto the streets of the area which you are there to represent as an impartial person may be construed by some as incompatible with the role and function of a Ccllr.

Clarkston Community Council were approached for comment and their spokesperson said ” Clarkston Community Council is not responsible for the activities of any member acting in a private capacity on matters not affected by the affairs of the Community Council. The Scheme of Establishment for Community Councils clearly states that “you are free to have political and or religious affiliations; however you must ensure that you represent the interests of your community and Community Council and not the interests of a particular political party or other group.”

“As a Community Council we always conduct our business and activities from an apolitical stance in full adherence to the Scheme. Clarkston Community Council responds to Newsdesk to reaffirm and reassure our residents and the public of our apolitical status.”

Both Community Councillors were provided with the opportunity to respond, however both failed to do so.

Surprisingly immediately after they were provided with the opportunity to comment Councillor Vincent Waters, the campaign manager for Yes East Renfrewshire Tweeted the following.

Cllr Waters is no stranger to controversy, and he has consistently refused to comment to certain news outlets.

Cllr Waters

However it is interesting that Cllr Waters should mention North Korea, it has been noted from the Clarkston Community Council minutes of October 2014 that two Cllrs were allegedly attempting t0 prevent a democratically formed CC from responding to a fully credited member of the press.

The CC minutes state: Response to Mr T Taylor, Newsdesk

The Chair referred to the communication from Mr Taylor of the 19th September 2014 that the office bearers agreed should be circulated to all members of the CC prior to any response and stressed that we are here for the community and we are duty bound to respond to such a communication.

Kirsten Oswald and Vincent McKechnie both felt that there should be no response to Mr Taylor. EK (Chair) stated that we have a duty to respond to members of the public and have always done so. VMcK questioned this and stated that we should ignore Mr Taylor and not embroil ourselves in meaningless distraction, VMcK referred to an email that he had marked confidential and previously sent to restricted members of CCC stating that we should ignore the Newsdesk communication. KO said that she had no issue with what we were saying but would be happier if the response was a lot briefer. It was pointed out that the response could not be made any briefer as it was already very short… (Full details of the minutes can be read at      )

It may appear that an unknown cost of the referendum has been the exposure of a few who claim to represent the people who are actually keen to silence any reporter prepared to speak the truth and they don’t like them and see them as a threat, it would appear that there are a few within the SNP ranks at East Renfrewshire who are not keen on freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Yes Cllr Waters please keep making the analogy with North Korea, we would have to suggest that this may ring bells with the public of East Renfrewshire when they think of you.

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