Council row over SNP Petitions Committee delay

5th May 2019

A row blew up at the Council’s Executive Committee on Wednesday about delays by the SNP Administration in getting the Petitions Committee up and running and advertised to the public. Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown, who chaired the Working Group which led to the approval for setting up the Petitions Committee, said it was quite ridiculous that it had taken 9 months from the endorsement of the plan last August for the Council to be asked to appoint a Convener and there was still no action plan to make it known to the public.

Independent Councillor Jackie Burns was ultimately appointed Convener, defeating a nomination of Councillor Brown.

Robert Brown said:

“The Petitions Committee is an important initiative in opening up the Council and making it more accessible to the citizens of South Lanarkshire. Liberal Democrats had argued strongly for it and it was in the manifesto of the SNP Council administration. The detailed plans for how it would operate were developed by my Working Group last Spring and approved by the Council in August. 

Despite that, there has been no notification to Community Councils, Parent Councils, Residents’ Groups or other local community organisations and no proper arrangements to tell anyone that the Petitions Committee even existed. The SNP put forward the rather feeble excuse that it was up to Councillors to tell the public. Councillors have a helpful role there but it is no substitute for proper arrangements by the Council to advertise it formally to groups and on social media.

Something went up on the Council website recently but only because I pressed officials on it. I bet if you asked most people in South Lanarkshire about it, they would tell you they had never heard of it.

It took them 9 months even to appoint a chair of the new Committee.

I did get a public promise from the Leader of the SNP Administration at the Executive Committee meeting that an Action Plan would now be developed to get the existence of the Petitions Committee and the procedure for petitions advertised to the public. I really do hope they do it properly but there seems a strange reluctance by the SNP Administration to get on with it properly.The Petitions Committee should provide a powerful tool for local people or groups who feel they are getting the run around on an important issue, or that their interests are being ignored, to get a hearing on it and the opportunity to explore ways forward.”

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