CONCERNS have been raised over the lack of scrutiny of decisions made under emergency powers at East Renfrewshire Council.

Councillors agreed in March to suspend all meetings and delegate decisions to chief executive Lorraine McMillan and senior officers during the coronavirus pandemic.

But some elected members and residents feel this move means tax payers aren’t being adequately represented.

A concerned member of the public, who asked not to be named, said: “Councillors handed control of decisions to those very same officers councillors are there to control.

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“As a consequence, the residents/council tax payers of East Renfrewshire now have no representation.

“Councillors discussed but refused to impose any time-limit and as this matter is not time limited nor subject to review, it could run until the next council elections, whenever they are held.”

They asked why the authority couldn’t use video technology to provide updates.

A council spokesman said the measures were introduced to address the “unique and unprecedented” challenges of the pandemic.

He added they were “working through the details” of holding meetings via video conference.

At the meeting on March 23, the authority agreed an emergency committee, made up of the council leader Tony Buchanan, depute leader Paul O’Kane and the leader of the main opposition group, Conservative Stewart Miller, would be set up to make decisions requiring political approval and the changes would be kept under review and revoked “at the appropriate time”.

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Councillor David Macdonald has also voiced his opposition to the arrangements.

In a Facebook post earlier this month, he said: “The residents of East Renfrewshire are having decisions thrust on them now with no scrutiny on those decisions.

“A meeting of the full council takes approximately 60-90 minutes and less for a single decision to be democratically reached.”

Mr Macdonald and another independent councillor, Paul Aitken, voted against the emergency powers at the March meeting.

Speaking on the day, Mr Aitken branded the move an “indefinite coup d’état” and said he had “serious concerns”. Conservative Tory councillor Jim Swift, who abstained in the vote, had suggested the council should use technology to hold meetings.

In response to the concerns, the council spokesman said: “These temporary emergency measures were put in place to support the council in dealing with the global coronavirus pandemic, which has presented unique and unprecedented challenges for all local authorities.

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“Establishing the emergencies committee was an important step in ensuring any decisions which required approval from councillors could be done so quickly and effectively.

“All decisions made by the council so far have been of an operational nature and therefore taken by the chief executive and directors.

“Whilst elected members on the emergencies committee have been kept updated on the measures being taken, there has not been a requirement for formal approval from the emergencies committee at this stage.”

He added: “National guidance has been provided in relation to holding statutory committees, such as planning, via video conferencing and we are currently working through the details of this.

“The requirement for the temporary emergencies committee is being kept under review and we will resume with a more normal council meeting structure as soon as is practically possible, once we are able to ensure that meetings can be held both in line with social distancing guidelines and with suitable technology arrangements in place to support virtual meetings effectively.”