THE people of East Renfrewshire are set to go to the polls on May 3 for the council elections.
IN 2007, Conservative and Labour were tied on seven seats, with the Tories winning 2,742 more votes.
However, Labour, with the help of SNP and independent councillors, formed the administration and have been in control of the council ever since.
In the ensuing five years, a number of issues remain at the forefront of the minds of local people; the need for a replacement of the Clarkston clinic, education and of course, roads.
However, one matter has pushed itself to the top of the agenda – East Renfrewshire’s main issues report.
The MIR, which has already been subject to public consultation, will detail future building in the area for the next 25 years.
Labour’s Alan Lafferty, is “reluctant to release greenbelt land unless there is a proven need.
“We will be guided by the public on this matter and will wait to analyse the response from the consultation.
“Although there are enough houses and planning applications for the next five years, we have to consider the changing demographic of the next 25 years”.
While SNP’s Tony Buchanan “would much rather see sites already with planning permission built on. The SNP would look to retain as much greenbelt as possible”.
Independent candidate Ralph Robertson, currently a councillor in Netherlee, Stamperland and Williamwood believes the MIR is the single biggest issue this election.
He told The Extra: “I would not support any building in greenbelt, that was my policy in 2007 and I’m sticking to it. If you build on it, it’s lost forever
“The current proposals would put considerable pressure on ERC’s infrastructure and it concerns everybody in the area”.
Liberal Democrat Alex Mackie, is at present unwilling to declare his position on the subject, but Conservative councillor Jim Swift has issued a “guarantee against building on greenbelt” if his party forms the administration.
Another area where Mr Swift and his party have particularly strong feelings is that of the Eastwood health centre, where he believes two smaller health centres; one in Clarkston and one in Newton Mearns would be better than building a single “leviathan”.
However, messrs Buchanan, Lafferty and Mackie believe one centre for Eastwood, on a large scale equivalent to the site currently situated in Barrhead, is the only option.
On tough questions such as the decision to close Robslee and the situation with placing requests for St Ninian’s, education convener Alan Lafferty hopes the “voting public will be understanding.
“It is all about getting the best spend for East Renfrewshire. We have done our utmost to invest in children and will continue to do everything we will maintain our commitment to education if re-elected.
“Tough decisions have been made but there is continuing improvement in our schools and in ER we have three of the top five secondary schools in Scotland”.
Giffnock and Thornliebank councillor Alex Mackie, who withdrew from the education committee prior to the council’s decision on Robslee, believes “there may be a backlash against Labour for some of the decisions they have taken on education.
“ Robslee was a good wee school that was allowed to run down, when it finally closes we will face an issue with a school well past its best in Giffnock”.
“We need a new school, fit for purpose, for the children of Giffnock, Robslee and Thornliebank”.
Meanwhile, Tony Buchanan voiced his commitment to finding “a significant amount of funding for youth employment initiatives, such as internships”.
Newton Mearns councillor Jim Swift promised to address the persistent problem of the state of the area’s roads, and will look to make £20 million available to address the problem “by saving money on inefficiencies”.
Despite significant inroads made by the SNP in the Holyrood elections, Neilston, Uplawmoor and Newton Mearns south councillor Buchanan thinks it would be “a bit presumption to assume that will have a reflection on council election”.
“We want to increase our stake in ERC but it wouldn’t be a failure if we didn’t as we must remember we had no-one from our party voted in prior to 2007 and now we have two”.
Liberal Democrat Alex Mackie stressed that he wishes to “distance himself” from the party at a UK level.
“This coalition is going too far, too fast and I am beginning to get concerned that we are not seeing an improvement”.
Busby, Clarkston and Eaglesham’s Alan Lafferty thinks local issues will take precedence in this election.
He told The Extra: “The public are sophisticated and vote differently in different elections. This will be won and lost on East Renfrewshire issues.
“Personal factor and record of candidates can also have a greater impact, more so than in parliamentary candidates. In a rare moment of agreement, Jim Swift also believes “in a local election, people should vote on local issues”.
“People should look to what’s best for their community”.