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March 23, 2011

Local fury at ‘offensive remarks’ by councillor

Cash strapped councils are facing up to the reality that they can no longer own and run community facilities on anything like the scale that they have done in the past.  In many parts of the country, communities have shown themselves willing and able to take these assets over and run them themselves – places like Linwood in Renfrewshire. But despite massive levels of local support for the idea, the local councillor seems dead set against it

OUTRAGED Linwood community members expressed their disgust that a campaign to be involved in the design and management for the future Tweedie Hall (Community Centre) has been brushed under the carpet by Renfrewshire Council yet again.  However, they have vowed to ‘fight tooth and nail’ until the people of Linwood have a ‘voice’ in shaping future facilities in their area.

This follows a long line of disappointments faced by the 1000+ Linwood users from Linwood Community Education Centre and the 750+ users of Local Football Clubs who have been asking since March 2010 to be involved in the design and future management of facilities in Linwood.  This is to ensure the recreational, cultural, social networking, educational and personal welfare facilities currently experienced by Linwood Residents are preserved for future generations.

A questionnaire surveying 4,000 Linwood household reported that 99.6% of Linwood Residents agreed that the future community facility should be run ‘for the community, by the community’ and all future surpluses should be re-invested back into the community. But despite previously agreeing to support the group if it could demonstrate the backing of the community, Councillor Mackay has told the group that the support available is “none”.

Councillor Mackay announced recently that he wants to offer up local community buildings in Renfrewshire so they can be managed by local community groups as social enterprises.  However, at a meeting on March 7, Cllr Mackay said:

“Why should I hand over the keys to a brand new building when they (Linwood members) don’t even have the skills or expertise to write a business plan – it would be sheer negligence on my part“

The management of the future Tweedie Hall will have to go through RC’s Procurement Process and other Social Enterprise organisations, such as Renfrewshire Leisure Ltd, Kibble and Paisley Partnership Regeneration Council will probably be interested in the future management of this facility.  It is more likely a Social Enterprise will be successful as they have the skills and expertise to manage such a facility.” 

Coalition members were outraged at this remark and told Cllr Mackay they found this to be extremely offensive to the people of Linwood they were there to represent. The coalition has decided to lodge a complaint against Councillor Derek Mackay because of the inappropriate remarks he made in this meeting and for delaying the ‘design’ and ‘input’ asked by Linwood Groups since March 2010.

Local residents have expressed their concern to the Linwood Coalition Group about the relationship between Renfrewshire Council and Renfrewshire Leisure Ltd – the company that has been commissioned to run a new £24m sports complex in the area and which could potentially secure the contract to run the new Tweedie Hall.  Renfrewshire Council have 5 representatives who sit on Renfrewshire Leisure Limited’s Board.

A member of Linwood Community Coalition said, “enough is enough.  Renfrewshire Council say they are regenerating Linwood however, they have agreed for organisations to bulldoze their way into our town without paying any attention to the needs of the people who are being directly affected by these changes.  We will not sit back and be ignored by those in power who are supposed to be empowering local communities.  Renfrewshire Council need to start taking responsibility by ‘listening’ to the needs of Linwood residents.”


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