The future looks positive ... so watch this space
SAYS COUNCIL LEADER JOHN ROSS
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)