News

Roadworks investment underway in Linwood
10th March 2017


Councillor Eddie Devine, Convener of Renfrewshire Council's Environment Board inspects works to improve road safety at a problem junction in Linwood.Labour run Renfrewshire Council have begun a 150,000  programme of roadworks aimed at improving traffic flow and road safety at a busy location in Linwood.

New traffic signals are being installed at the junction of Stirling Drive and Clippens Road in Linwood. Street parking outside the shops will be formalised.  A new Toucan crossing will also be installed near to Kintyre play park. This crossing provides access to the existing national cycle route and also provides a safe crossing point for pedestrians and cyclists.

Council bosses have pledged to minimise disruption at morning and afternoon peak times and the works are being carried out between 9.30am and 3.30pm.  The six-week programme is expected to be completed by the end of the month. Councillor Eddie Devine, Convener of Renfrewshire Council's Environment Board, said:  "I know that the local community will welcome this significant investment in improving road safety and traffic flow.  We are doing all we can to minimise any inconvenience while the works are carried out and drivers and pedestrians will soon be able to see the benefit.  Recently the council announced its biggest-ever single year roads investment - 6.7million for 2017-18 and we will be developing our programme of further roads upgrades and maintenance over the coming months."


Paisley Town Centre regeneration taking shape
9th March 2017

Council Leader Mark Macmillan outside the Russell InstituteRestoration of the iconic Russell Institute building is nearing completion as part of major moves to revitalise Paisley Town Centre.

Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan visited the Category A-listed building in the heart of Paisley which is being transformed through a 5 million investment into a Skills & Employability Hub.  The former health centre will re-open its doors this summer, home to Skills Development Scotland and the Council's Invest in Renfrewshire employability team.

It is expected to house around 120 employees including careers and employability staff helping unemployed people across Renfrewshire and working closely with local businesses to create further jobs and grow the local economy.  Main contractors CBC Ltd have been charged with ensuring the distinctive features of the Institute are retained, from its ornate sculptures on the outside of the building, to its stunning staircase and balcony inside.  The Institute celebrates its 90th anniversary this month and a campaign will launch next week calling for the people of Renfrewshire to share their stories and photographs of this iconic local landmark.

Councillor Macmillan said: "It is fantastic to see first-hand the progress being made as the restoration of the iconic Russell Institute building nears completion. "It is a stunning building and the revamp is being carried out to preserve its architectural features. I know that the building means much more to the people of Paisley than bricks and mortar and I am pleased future generations will be able to appreciate its splendour. It is remembered fondly as a health centre and in its new role as a Skills and Employability Hub, it will provide an excellent environment in a central location to help generate new jobs and opportunities for the people of Renfrewshire."

The work at the Institute was sparked by the passion of local volunteers in the Paisley Development Trust and is funded by the Council, Scottish Government and Historic Environment Scotland. It is a key part of a range of projects and initiatives to bolster business and drive people back to the town centre, including the town's bid for UK City of Culture 2021.

Paisley is one of three Renfrewshire town centres benefiting from the installation of free public access Wi-Fi.  The former Arnotts department store is being converted into apartments and a restaurant whilst the second major shopfront improvement scheme has opened around High Street following its success on Causeyside Street. Work is under way on a new publicly-accessible museum store in a previously-empty unit on Paisley High St and plans are advanced for a new 5m library and 49m revamp of Paisley Museum.

Visitors to the town centre will also have noticed the giant gable end mural on Johnston Street, the first of several pieces of artwork led by business group Paisley First, tapping into the creative potential of Renfrewshire and part-funded through the Council's Culture, Heritage and Events Fund.

Councillor Macmillan added: "Changes in the way people shop have changed the role of the high street - but here in Paisley we are showing how investment in heritage, culture and events can be used to breathe new life into a town centre and bring in footfall which traders can benefit from.  We have implemented a multi-million pound regeneration plan and made major investment to create a high quality environment which people are proud of, one which attracts visitors and drives economic growth.  Paisley town centre is home to 122 listed buildings - the second highest concentration in Scotland. These outstanding architectural, heritage and cultural assets are key to driving regeneration and transforming the area's future."


Public access wi-fi boost for Renfrewshire town centres
8th March 2017

Scott McEwan (chief executive of of Boston Networks), Claudette Jones (chief information officer of UWS), Heather Armstrong (senior student representative of SAUWS) and Council Leader Mark Macmillan welcome free Wifi Boost for Renfrewshire towns.Labour run Renfrewshire Council commissions system to help town centres thrive, tackle digital exclusion and cement Paisley's place as a home of education.

The Labour administration on Renfrewshire Council is delivering free public access wi-fi which will make the area's the town centres places to be. The 1 million system will give free internet access to anyone in Johnstone, Paisley and Renfrew town centres, drawing in visitors and delivering more customers for local businesses.

It will allow visitors to stay in touch through email and messaging apps, access their digital banking and use the many other web-based systems people increasingly rely on while out-and-about. The system will also help tackle the problem of digital exclusion and cement the area's reputation as a place for learning.

Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan said: "We are committed to ensuring our towns have the infrastructure they need to thrive.  Johnstone, Paisley and Renfrew town centres provide jobs and vital services for people throughout Renfrewshire, and we know around a quarter of people are likely to spend more time in a town centre that offers free public wi-fi.  By providing this facility we will draw in more visitors, get them to stay longer and so help boost local trade.  This is an exciting development that reflects our determination to take action that helps our town centres succeed, delivers meaningful support to local businesses and encourages employers to create jobs in our communities.  It will also help more people to get online and access the benefits the internet has to offer, as well as furthering Paisley's status as a leading centre of higher and further education."

Renfrewshire's free public wi-fi system is currently being installed in Johnstone town centre, before being rolled-out in Paisley and Renfrew town centres.

Tackling digital exclusion

The installation of free wi-fi in the three town centres and in public buildings across Renfrewshire will tackle digital exclusion, which mainly affects those on low incomes who do not have an internet connection at home.  This leaves people further disadvantaged due to being unable to access opportunities and services most take for granted. 

Council Leader Macmillan explained: "Sadly, digital exclusion is most likely to impact those who would benefit most from the internet.  For people on low incomes the chance to get better deals on things like household gas and electricity bills or their car insurance would make a massive difference.  There are also other benefits that people may not realise", he continued.  If someone is vulnerable or isolated the value of face-to-face contact with their loved ones is hard to overstate.  Internet access would allow them to use things like free video calls to stay in touch with friends and family who have moved away from the area, overcoming isolation and loneliness.  Free public access wi-fi will help to tackle the issue of digital exclusion and this is a central element of Renfrewshire Council's Tackling Poverty Strategy."

System to cement Paisley as a centre of higher and further education

Renfrewshire's new public access wi-fi system will enhance the reputation of Paisley as a centre of education.  The town is home to the campuses of both the renowned University of the West of Scotland and the leading West College Scotland.  Students, researchers and staff will be able to use the public access wi-fi system to access Eduroam, which allows universities and colleges around the world to give instant remote access to materials stored securely on their internal networks.  Professor Craig Mahoney, the principal and vice-chancellor of University of the West of Scotland (UWS), said: "This is a fantastic development for the town.  Being able to stay connected is increasingly important in today's fast moving world and this development is welcomed by UWS.  It will benefit not only those working and studying at UWS but also those who visit the university."

Heather Armstrong, senior student representative of the Students Association of the University of the West of Scotland, added: "It's great that Paisley town centre will have free wi-fi.  Having a fast, reliable and secure internet connection on our phones is becoming ever more important. If people can't get online while they're in town it makes life difficult, as everyday tasks from banking to checking public transport times are all now done through the internet. With students increasingly having less money in their pockets, mobile phone contracts with unlimited data are a luxury not everyone can afford.  Being able to log-on to Renfrewshire Council's free public wi-fi will make a real difference to students who would otherwise be at a significant disadvantage."

Award winning Renfrewshire firm to install area's public access wi-fi system and create new jobs for local people  The free public access wi-fi system is being installed by Braehead-based company Boston Networks, who won Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce's Employer of the Year award in November.  As part of the 1 million contract with Renfrewshire Council the firm is providing a number of community benefits throughout the area.  It will hire four new members of staff, including a project management graduate from UWS and two wireless engineer modern apprentices identified with the help of the council's employability service Invest in Renfrewshire.  The modern apprentices will work side-by-side with a team of experienced engineers to learn and develop on-the-job skills and gain a formal qualification.  Boston Networks will also recruit at least one additional member of staff and will work with Invest in Renfrewshire to encourage local school leavers and unemployed young people to apply.  Scott McEwan, the company's chief executive, said: "Boston Networks is both excited and proud to be working with Renfrewshire Council to support their digital transformation strategy through the delivery of an enterprise grade public wi-fi service. Our experienced team will fully utilise their local and technical knowledge to design and deliver a leading-edge public wi-fi provision to support the council's key strategic priorities, such as improving digital inclusion and participation.  Renfrewshire Council is setting the standard high, their model will serve as an excellent example to other councils, who like Renfrewshire, will adopt digital transformation as a solution to deliver economic growth and enhance productivity through the provision of digital public services."

Paisley 2021 UK City of Culture bid helped by improved internet access

Delivering free public access wi-fi adds weight to Paisley's campaign to be named the UK City of Culture 2021.  The bid is part of wider push to re-energise the town centre and offering visitors free internet access supports efforts to make Paisley a destination of choice for people across the region and much further afield.  Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan explained: "The City of Culture bid is raising Paisley's profile by putting the town and its assets in the international spotlight.  This bid is part of a wider long-term plan to use Paisley's outstanding heritage, architectural and cultural assets to drive regeneration and transform the area's future.  People now expect to be able to use their smartphones to get online wherever they go. Installing free public access wi-fi makes sure they can do just that.  This will significantly improve visitors' experience and support our efforts to establish the town as a key destination for cultural and heritage tourism within Scotland and the UK."
 

Left to right: Scott McEwan (chief executive of of Boston Networks), Claudette Jones (chief information officer of UWS), Heather Armstrong (senior student representative of SAUWS) and Council Leader Mark Macmillan.


Labour Education chiefs view progress on state-of-the-art 18million school
21st February 2017


Education Convener Councillor Jacqueline Henry and Depute Convener Councillor Maureen Sharkey inspect progress on the new Riverbrae School in Linwood.Education chiefs in Renfrewshire have been viewing progress on a new state of the art 18.8milllion school which will transform the learning opportunities available to children with additional support needs.

Riverbrae School in Linwood will open in August replacing Clippens and Kersland Schools and Hollybush Pre 5 Centre.  For the first time in Renfrewshire, pre-5, primary and secondary education for children with additional support needs will be available in one facility.  The purpose-built facility will offer improved accessibility for pupils with physical or sensory difficulties, along with better access to sports facilities and IT equipment.

Councillor Jacqueline Henry, Convener of Renfrewshire Council's Education Policy Board, recently visited the new facility along with Councillor Maureen Sharkey, the Board's Depute Convener.

Catherine Gilius, who is the head teacher of Riverbrae, gave the visitors an advance look at some of the new facilities and outlined how they will enable an improved approach to educational and personal development throughout their school career.  Councillor Henry said:  "There's still a bit of work to complete, including the fitting out of the classrooms. You can clearly see the potential in the facilities, backed by the knowledge and commitment of the staff that will maximise the potential of all the young people that will learn here."

Councillor Sharkey said:  "It was very encouraging to see the final phase of this an ambitious and innovative project which will make a lasting difference to the lives of the young people and their parents. This council has prioritised investing in education and boosting opportunity for all and Riverbrae is an outstanding example of that."

Riverbrae School has been jointly funded by Renfrewshire Council (10.1m) and the Scottish Futures Trust (8.7m).


Renfrewshire households protected from cuts as Councillors vote to freeze council taxes and rents for coming year
16th February 2017


Households in Renfrewshire have been protected from significant budget cuts as Councillors voted to freeze Council Tax, council rents and adult social care charges for the coming year.

Labour run Renfrewshire Council's budget for 2017-18 was set at a Council meeting yesterday and will provide a budget of 386 million for existing public services.

The budget takes account of a 16 million reduction in annual spending to address a budget shortfall which must be met in the coming year. This shortfall has been managed by savings delivered through the Council's effective debt management and its Better Council change programme which improves efficiencies across the council, meaning that the budget shortfall will not hit front line services or the pockets of people in Renfrewshire.

The Council budget also sees the following investment:

  • The largest single investment for maintenance of our roads network with 6.7million for key routes to keep Renfrewshire's economy moving freeing up extra resource for residential roads.

  • An additional 1.5million for Council initiatives to tackle poverty such as providing money and energy advice, literacy programmes, breakfast clubs, supporting families with the cost of the school day and supporting digital participation across the region.

  • An extra 1.5million funding will be used for a refurbishment of St Anthony's primary and a new Spateston nursery in Johnstone.

  • An extra 150,000 funding to remove music tuition fees for every child in Renfrewshire schools and a doubling of the Cultural Heritage and Events Fund with an extra 500,000 to benefit dozens of community arts groups across the region.

  • An extra 1million for investment in community facilities as well as 20,000 for each of the region's Local Area Committees to expand the grants available to their local communities.

  • All fees and charges, including those for adult social care and Council-owned leisure facilities, will also be frozen for the coming year, including fitness class fees and hire of football pitch facilities.

Council Leader Mark MacmillanLeader of the Council, Councillor Mark Macmillan, welcomed the budget and said the measures agreed would help protect Renfrewshire residents from some of the severe cuts faced by public services.  Councillor Macmillan said "We are ambitious for Renfrewshire and what it can achieve and I am pleased we have been able to protect the pockets of people who live and work in the area despite the ongoing cuts and increasing pressures on our budget. Through our effective management of the public purse, we have listened to what matters to our communities and continued to freeze the Council Tax at current rates as well as freeze council rents, charges for adult social care and charges for our leisure facilities across the region. We are a region of great prosperity but also significant inequality and we want to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities through education and employment to grow a Renfrewshire that is an attractive place to visit, work and invest in.  Our communities have a history of great talent and by tapping into that talent and investing in it through the removal of music tuition fees and through funding for our talented communities, we can open up access to opportunities that can change the lives of those who take part in such activities. Our Paisley bid for UK City of Culture 2021 is part of our ambition to tap into and develop that talent to ensure future generations of success."

Scottish Government changes to legislation mean council tax bands for properties in Bands E to H will increase from April this year. Councillors yesterday voted not to further increase Council tax for local residents ensuring that cost pressures caused by increased demand for adult social care and other pay and inflation pressures will be met within the budget available to the Council.

Council Leader Mark Macmillan added "We have been determined not to pass the cost pressures we face on to households in Renfrewshire while so many people are having to tighten their own budgets and in the worst cases, are struggling to provide the basics for their families. We have listened to what our communities have told us and invested in initiatives that will make a real difference to people's pockets. We want to invest in a long term future for people in the area, through jobs and education opportunities and I urge Scottish Government to end this uncertainty for local services and provide a long term financial vision for the delivery of the vital public services so many people rely on."


Rent freeze boost for Renfrewshire Council tenants
16th February 2017


Council Leader Mark MacmillanAs part of the budget for 2017/18 councillors approved proposals not to increase rent on any of its 12,000 homes.

Renfrewshire Council is to help its tenants by freezing rents for the next year. The council owns around 12,000 homes in Renfrewshire and all its tenants will see their rent remain at the current level in 2017/18. 

Councillors approved the measure as part of the budget in a meeting today.  It follows a recent consultation with council tenants, which saw more than 600 share their views through a telephone survey in December and January.  More than half thought rents should remain at current levels or increase below the rate of inflation.  Almost three-quarters thought that 'affordability for tenants' was the most important thing for the council to take into account when setting a rent increase.  

Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan said "Affordability is clearly an issue of concern to most tenants. Freezing rents for the next year will give a welcome boost to households across the area and I'm glad the council is in a position to give them this help.  The UK Government's welfare reforms are causing severe financial difficulty for families so this council is absolutely determined to do whatever we can to help people get by.  We set aside 5 million for measures to alleviate the impact of the chancellor's unfair reforms over the period 2013/14 to 2017/18.  This included having extra staff to help tenants who are struggling because of the reforms and this support will continue over the next year."

A report to the council explained the key assumptions underpinning 2017/18 budget proposals. Improved letting times, the expected pace of roll out of Universal Credit in Renfrewshire, and management of historic debt are among the factors enabling no rent increase in 2017/18.  While council tenants raked 'affordability' as the most important factor in setting the rent increase, tenants also highlighted the importance of improvements to existing housing and building new council homes. The budget passed by councillors includes plans to spend 65 million over the next three years (2017/18 to 2019/20).  This includes 36.9 million for planned investment programmes such as new roofs and external fabric improvements, internal improvements, and improvements to multi-storey flats and sheltered housing. It also makes provision for more than 300 new build council homes, including around 100 new homes at Bishopton and around 100 in Johnstone Castle, as well as capital investment to support local housing regeneration initiatives.

Council Leader Macmillan said "Renfrewshire Council is committed to providing high-quality homes that people can afford to rent and buy. We want to create homes that people want to live in - and ensure our communities are places where they want to stay."


111k boost for local groups as part of Paisley 2021 bid
13th February 2017


Groups connected to Paisley's bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 are in line to share a six-figure boost from a fund designed to boost the area's creative scene. 

Councillors will this week be asked to approve a 111,299 spend from Renfrewshire's Culture, Heritage and Events Fund, to allow 12 different cultural and charity groups to run a variety of arts-related projects.  The CHE Fund was set up to help unlock Renfrewshire's creative potential in the run-up to and during the Paisley 2021 bid.  This will be the third round of funding since the CHE Fund was set up - and saw 44 applications and a total ask of more than 700,000 for the judges to sift through.

The 12 projects recommended for approval include:

  • 25,000 to Reaching Older Adults in Renfrewshire (ROAR) to use virtual reality and other digital technology to help older people have new cultural experiences;

  • 15,000 for the Paisley First Business Improvement District to fund a project to produce six murals in partnership with local artists and community groups;

  • 14,364 to the Historical Adventures group to help involve Renfrewshire's deaf community in arts projects;

Other shortlisted projects include an international tango festival for Paisley, a bi-annual poetry journal, a series of plays on the history of Renfrewshire, and money to help set up a local Scottish-Polish club.

A number of additional projects have been shortlisted but judges did not have all the information they needed to make a final decision on them - so councillors are being asked to give officers the power to approve up to another 45,000 of grants before the board meets again.

Members of the council's leadership board will be asked to approve that request, as well as approve the other grant awards, when they meet on Wednesday 15 February.  The council set aside 500,000 for the CHE Fund back in 2015, and should the latest 12 applications be approved, 345,401 will have been spent to date.

That would also mean 46 projects will have been supported from a total of 152 applications - and a total funding ask of almost 2m.  Projects funded to date include teenage Kilbarchan animator Morgan Spence's incredible Paisley 2021 Lego movie, released earlier month and now been Council Leader Mark Macmillanseen by millions of people around the world.

Renfrewshire Council Leader and chair of the Paisley 2021 Partnership Board Mark Macmillan said: "Paisley's bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 will bring massive economic and social benefits to the whole area.  But if it is to succeed we need to show a thriving local creative scene and a proven ability to stage cultural projects.  The CHE Fund is key to that - we know there is a huge depth of creativity and talent here in Renfrewshire and the fund is intended to help people show that off.  The response from the public has been phenomenal and the level of ask has far outstripped the funding available.  That has given the judges a tough task, as they have had to pick between a really high quality of application in each of the three rounds to date.  We are pleased the latest shortlist includes a range of projects to help some of the less-heard voices locally - such as older adults, the deaf community and women who have experienced mental health difficulties.  One of the key aims of Paisley's bid is to harness the power of culture to make people's lives better and this latest round of funding will help do that."

Paisley's bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 is due to be lodged in April, with organisers at the UK Government's Department of Culture, Media and Sport to announce the shortlist over the summer.


Ferguslie Park residents to help shape ambitious plans to regenerate the area
10th February 2017

Councillors approved plans for a major investment to develop a regional sports centre and deliver high quality homes.  Communities will have the chance to shape an ambitious regeneration programme for Ferguslie Park. 

Members of the Renfrewshire Council Leadership Board approved proposals for major investment in the area, which are focused around the development of a Regional Centre for Sport and delivery of high quality homes.  The proposals have been shaped by community consultation undertaken by the council in summer 2016, which indicated strong support for the sports facility and targeted housing investment. 

The state-of-the-art sports facility will create a focus for local communities and generate opportunities for jobs, health improvement and activities for young people, as well as attracting visitors from across Renfrewshire.  It is expected to include a range of indoor and outdoor pitches for football, rugby and hockey as well as a specialist sports clinic, conditioning suite and associated changing facilities. Initial proposals in relation to the sports facility, which is estimated to involve investment in the region of 14 million, have been developed in partnership with the University of the West of Scotland and St Mirren FC.

Councillor Tommy WilliamsProposals for housing investment relate to the Tannahill Road and Tannahill Crescent area of Ferguslie Park. These involve investing in existing stock, the demolition of low demand and vacant properties and developing a small number of new affordable homes.    Councillor Tommy Williams, Renfrewshire Council's convener of housing, said: "The regeneration of Ferguslie Park is a priority for the council and I'm delighted the board has approved these proposals. We are determined that regeneration is led by the local community and our plans reflect the outcomes of our community consultation in summer 2016."

He continued: "Most residents told us they want to stay in the area, with many people speaking positively about good local facilities, a community spirit and closeness to their neighbours, family and friends.  The proposals for housing investment have been developed to reflect these views and enable local residents to remain in the area.  The sports proposals have also been developed to include additional facilities and improve transport links to the area to reflect the views expressed".

The plans will enable further consultation with the local community, local sports groups and all potential partners and funders on the detail of the regional sports facility and housing investment plans. 

Councillor Williams explained: "The plans will give local people access to top class sporting facilities, high quality housing and have wider social and economic benefits.  So far the local community have played a key role throughout the process and we are keen this continues. The consultation on the proposals is expected to start in early March and I would urge everyone to take part so that the final plans we ultimately take forward continue to reflect local people's vision for their community."

Renfrewshire Council's regeneration of Paisley is part of a drive to give it a sustainable and prosperous future.  This will improve opportunities for local people and establish the area as a destination of choice for residents, businesses and visitors. The Paisley 2021 bid to become UK City of Culture is already transforming people's perceptions of the town, encouraging new arts events and activities, and making it a destination of choice for businesses and visitors alike.


What the Scottish Government's change to the Council Tax means for Renfrewshire households
7th February 2017


Renfrewshire Council is legally required to implement the Scottish Government's change, which automatically increases the charges to higher band properties.

The basis on which properties are assessed for council tax has been changed by the Scottish Government and this will increase the charge for properties banded E to H.

Renfrewshire Council has no discretion in this matter and is legally required to apply these increases from 1 April 2017. Households living in properties in bands A to D are not affected by the increases. 

The change means that residents of Band E properties will pay at least 106.76 per year more in council tax, which equates to an extra 8.90 per calendar month or an additional 2.05 per week.

Residents of Band H properties will pay at least 524.11 per year more than they do at present, which is an increase of 43.68 per calendar month or 10.08 per week.

Council Leader Mark MacmillanRenfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan said: "The Scottish Government has changed the 'council tax multiplier' for higher bands, which automatically raises the charges for those households.  All councils are legally required to implement this change from the start of April and we have no power to opt-out.  We have written to every affected household in Renfrewshire to help residents prepare for the changes coming into effect, as well as to advise people who may be entitled to exemptions on how they can apply for them."

Council tax bills for 2017-18 confirming payments will be issued to all households mid March.  Households with income that does not exceed 321 per week for single households, or 479 per week for couples, lone parents and families, are eligible to apply for a full exemption from the increased charge through the Council Tax Reduction scheme.  People can apply for Council Tax Reduction through the MyAccount service at www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/MyAccount.

Paper application forms are available by visiting a Renfrewshire Council a Customer Service Centre or by calling 0300 300 0288.

Where possible, completed application forms will be processed by the council in time to be included in the 2017/18 annual demand notice; otherwise applications will processed and a replacement notice will be issued at the earliest opportunity.  Low income households already in receipt of Council Tax Reduction do not need to re-apply.  Anyone having difficulty paying their Council Tax, or who falls behind with their payments, should call Renfrewshire Council on 0300 300 0300 (Monday to Thursday 8.45am-4.45pm, Friday 8.45am-3.55pm) for help and advice.


   

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