TORY councillors in East Renfrewshire are questioning a decision by the local authority to sell off a community hub.

East Renfrewshire Council’s cabinet agreed a deal last month to give full ownership of Woodfarm Education Centre to Woodfarm Educational Trust, which uses it to promote religious and racial harmony.

Trust bosses are set to pay the local authority £20,000 and a standard security will be included, protecting the facility’s future as a ‘multicultural’ centre.
But Tory representatives want the cabinet’s call to be reviewed.

Five councillors from the Conservative group – Charlie Gilbert, Stewart Miller, Jim McLean, Jim Swift and Gordon Wallace – have called in the decision, raising concerns over whether it represents ‘Best Value.’

Caroline Innes, the council’s deputy chief executive, confirmed the move.
She told the Barrhead News: “A notice calling in the cabinet’s decision was submitted.

“The notice was signed by councillors Gilbert, Miller, McLean, Swift and Wallace, with councillor Wallace being the lead signatory.

“The call-in notice listed a single reason for the call in of the cabinet’s decision, this being that it does not represent Best Value.

“The alternative proposal to that agreed by the cabinet listed on the call-in notice was that existing arrangements be retained.”

‘Best Value’ is a framework for continuous improvement in public services, which aims to keep a balance between quality and cost, considering factors such as economy, efficiency, effectiveness, equal opportunities and sustainable development.

In October 2009, East Renfrewshire Council agreed to lease the former Woodfarm Sports Centre, in Thornliebank, for a period of 20 years.

That lease was extended to 125 years in 2012, when the trust paid £170,000 to the council.

However, just six years later, cabinet members decided to rip up the agreement, allowing the trust to take ownership.

This call was made as the trust, which has been granted planning permission for an extension to the centre, had been struggling to raise funds for the work due to the lease.

Introducing a standard security means the council can ensure the site remains a multicultural centre. Any change of use would involve further payment to the council.

The trust’s current aims for the centre are to advance education, culture, heritage and religion for the public benefit, particularly among the minority ethnic Muslim community, and to promote religious and racial harmony in East Renfrewshire.

Members of the council’s audit and scrutiny committee will meet on Friday to discuss the call-in.

If members disagree with the cabinet’s decision, a report will be submitted to the next cabinet meeting.

If the cabinet does not accept the committee’s recommendations, the issue will be referred to the next full council meeting, where councillors will decide whether to back the cabinet’s call or the committee’s proposals.