BARRHEAD Community Council has successfully overturned “Robert Mugabe-like” changes to the way it is run.

The controversial constitutional rules imposed on community councils by East Renfrewshire Council give the local authority powers to sack community councillors, limit terms of office to one year, and dissolve the organisations completely if they do not meet requirements.

Some critics even likened the scheme to the dictatorial behaviour of Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe.

However, Barrhead Community Council (BCC) members successfully argued the changes would damage the body’s ability to do business, and became the latest community council to overturn the decision, allowing serving chairwoman Rosaleen Reilly to continue to serve at the helm.

Ms Reilly, who has been in the position for more than five years, told the News: “We feel we should be able to nominate our own office bearers and that they should hold the position for as long as we see fit.

“We are supposed to be independent from the local authority and, for a long time, we worked flawlessly with the local authority and have had a great working relationship with ERC, with no complaints.

“The community council effectively has its hands tied and it is a deeply impractical scheme.”

Neilston Community Council chairman John Scott, welcomed the reversal of the decision, but added limited numbers remain the biggest challenge facing community councils.

As reported in the News, the council’s scheme was brought in in 2015 after three of East Renfrewshire’s 10 community councils tried to amend their constitutions – which the authority said was against its rules.

Council insiders said some groups had been accused of bullying and undemocratic behaviour and were being used as vehicles to further personal interests.

Under the scheme, ERC has the explicit right to veto any moves to change constitutions.

At the time, council chiefs defended the decision, saying it would make the organisations more transparent and accessible.

However, fewer community councils are now operating in East Renfrewshire than before the changes were put in place.

Despite this, ERC insists the scheme has been well received.

A spokesman for the authority said: “Since the introduction of the new scheme of establishment in 2015, there has been strong interest and support for our community councils, so we don’t accept the claims made.

“Seven new community councils have already been created, an eighth has just been established following a call for nominations for membership with a ninth set to follow soon.

“In the coming months we will be working with local communities to try to establish community councils in those areas not yet represented.

“The new set of guidelines introduced for community councils has led to increased diversity, including attracting representatives from a broader age range and more females and more members from ethnic minorities now representing the communities they live in.”