The fu­ture looks pos­i­tive ... so watch this space


Rutherglen Reformer - - Gossip Girl - Douglas Dickie

The first 100 days is a po­lit­i­cal phe­nom­e­non usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with the Pres­i­dent of the United States.

But sit­ting in the leader’s of­fice at South La­nark­shire Coun­cil, John Ross has his own 100 days to fo­cus on.

“What we are look­ing at right now are a num­ber of items that we want to try and get out there in our first 100 days,” he says.

“Just to show we are try­ing to move the ad­min­is­tra­tion in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion.

“We want to make the coun­cil more open and trans­par­ent, we want to try and make all the meet­ings open to the pub­lic. We want to in­stall web cams.

“Not ev­ery­one will use it, but again it’s to show a will­ing­ness to change the way that the coun­cil is op­er­at­ing.”

It is less than a month since the SNP ended two decades of Labour dom­i­nance in South La­nark­shire and just two weeks since Coun­cil­lor Ross be­came leader in a mi­nor­ity ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Sit­ting down for a chat with the Re­former about his plans, he ad­mits the first few weeks have been a whirl­wind.

“It’s been pretty full on,” he says. “Be­cause we are a mi­nor­ity ad­min­is­tra­tion and there’s only 25 of us, try­ing to fill all the po­si­tions [is dif­fi­cult]. There’s some­thing like 96 be­tween all the re­source com­mit­tees, it’s crazy try­ing to make sure ev­ery­one has a re­spon­si­bil­ity and can handle the re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“It’s still on­go­ing, we still have some things to sort out.”

Coun­cil­lor Ross was first elected in the 1970s as a district coun­cil­lor.

Af­ter leav­ing to spend more time with his fam­ily, he re­turned to the fold in 2015 when An­gela Craw­ley was elected as an MP.

The SNP were strongly tipped to win the elec­tion in South La­nark­shire, but the new leader ad­mits it was a bit­ter­sweet mo­ment when they did just that, but failed to gain a ma­jor­ity.

“It was a very big dis­ap­point­ment,” he says.

“If we had got the ma­jor­ity we could have, first of all had more coun­cil­lors to share the work­load, but we would have been able to guar­an­tee we would get our pro­gres­sive man­i­festo through with­out hav­ing to be minded all the time about try­ing to pla­cate other par­ties, so yeah, it would have helped the sit­u­a­tion.

“We are very con­scious of the fact that we are a mi­nor­ity ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“The very first thing I did when I be­came leader was to write to ev­ery party in the coun­cil and ask to have a meet­ing with them to talk about ways to go for­ward.

“Most of our man­i­festo is pro­gres­sive, it’s non­con­tro­ver­sial, it will only ben­e­fit the peo­ple in the county, so I think for 90 per cent of the items go­ing for­ward we shouldn’t see any

con­flict. Ob­vi­ously when it comes to the bud­get, we will prob­a­bly have two cases where maybe the Con­ser­va­tives will want us to spend less and Labour will want us to spend more, but we will cross that when we come to it.

“What we want to do is speak to peo­ple about get­ting our pro­gres­sive man­i­festo through and will talk to any­one at any­time about do­ing that so we don’t come across con­flict we have come about in the past.”

Res­i­dents in Ruther­glen and Cam­bus­lang will be hop­ing to see their coun­cil­lors work­ing to­gether to im­prove the two towns.

Dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, vot­ers ex­pressed con­cerns over lack of fa­cil­i­ties, ex­ces­sive house build­ing, trans­port pro­vi­sion and the fu­ture of Cam­bus­lang Main Street.

The new leader seems keen to en­sure peo­ple stay­ing in the com­mu­nity get a big­ger say over what hap­pens there and also dis­cussed the par­tic­i­pa­tory bud­get, which will see one per cent of the coun­cil’s spend­ing al­lo­cated to each ward over the next five years.

He said: “What we would like to do is change slightly the struc­ture. We’d like to see the area com­mit­tees have more say, for in­stance in lo­cal plan­ning is­sues, and we’d like to see things com­ing back to area com­mit­tees be­cause lo­cal mem­bers know best for their lo­cal area.

“We would also like to see the area com­mit­tees take a lead in this par­tic­i­pa­tory bud­get­ing be­cause we need to have a frame­work in or­der to have the best use of that money com­ing back to each ward.

“It’ll take a bit of time to set this frame­work up but the idea is we need to get lo­cal peo­ple in­volved, heav­ily, in how we go about do­ing some­thing for each area.

Five SNP coun­cil­lors have been elected to serve Ruther­glen and Cam­bus­lang.

And Coun­cil­lor Ross is con­fi­dent they will do their best for the com­mu­nity, along with all other coun­cil­lors.

He also knows bud­gets are be­ing cut and tough choices will have to be made.

But when asked if he has a mes­sage for the peo­ple of Ruther­glen and Cam­bus­lang, he is bullish. He said: “We think it’s all pos­i­tive, we see the fu­ture be­ing very pos­i­tive and the coun­cil­lors you have in now will do a crack­ing job so watch this space.”

The idea is we need to get lo­cal peo­ple in­volved heav­ily in how we go about do­ing some­thing for each area. Lo­cal mem­bers know best for their lo­cal area.

In­ter­view Re­former ed­i­tor Douglas Dickie meets John Ross at the Coun­cil’s head­quar­ters (above) and heard what he plans to do to tackle the lo­cal is­sues, such as trans­port and the fu­ture of Cam­bus­lang Main Street (left)

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