9th June 2017
Extract of an article in the Rutherglen Reformer
by Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown
South Lanarkshire Council has always had a majority Labour administration, or a Labour administration sustained by the Conservatives which made little difference. This May, no political Party had a majority of seats. The 3 main groups each had to elect a new leader, so there was very much a changing of the old guard.
Eventually a minority SNP administration emerged. It is though a ruling group of only 25 – a full 7 Councillors short of a majority.
This is a major opportunity to open up the Council and make it more accountable and accessible to the public.
The SNP have already indicated they want to set up a Petitions Committee – which Liberal Democrats also support but I want this as part of a wider programme to give the public better opportunities to influence the Council.
I want regular Town Hall meetings where the Council is accountable to local people and organisations on the budget, the operation of services and major local initiatives.
More exciting Council meetings
Council meetings themselves often last only 10 minutes with only a roll call of attendees and approval of minutes. The Council should be the showpiece of local democracy, debating the big choices facing the area, a regular Question Time to grill administration leaders, and the ultimate decision-making on key matters. This needs a reform of the Council’s standing orders and a more outward looking approach by Council leaders.
Power for local People
Much more power should be exercised locally. The Area Committees should be strengthened and the arrangements for public consultation reformed. The Neighbourhood Boards in Fernhill and Cathkin have been very successful but have recently been stripped of support. The Housing Forums have been less successful and better ways need to be found to consult Council tenants.
Royal Burgh heritage
Rutherglen has always been proud of its Royal Burgh – an independent community with historic legal rights. Yet the Royal Burgh heritage hasn’t amounted to too much in recent years and it is time it was rebuilt as the focus of local community pride. Key to this is using the talents and expertise of the people in some of the amazing local organisations
An open Council, strong Area Committees, the power of the Royal Burgh and other local traditions, more powerful public involvement – these are the keys to a stronger local democracy in Rutherglen and Cambuslang and across South Lanarkshire.