A TORY councillor is campaigning for offenders to be given the opportunity to learn a trade as part of their community service. 

Councillor James MacLaren has written to Sandra Black, chief executive of Renfrewshire Council, proposing the set up of a charity focusing on the restoration of buildings which have fallen into disrepair. 

The elected member for Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank envisions a scheme led by a person from a building background who wants to help people get their lives back on track. 

In the process offenders would be mentored and have the opportunity to gain a qualification. 

Councillor MacLaren said: “If a charity could be set up, it could achieve a lot. It would need to find someone willing and able, perhaps a retired builder, to mentor these individuals. 

“I’m happy to speak to anyone who has any ideas or interest in this kind of project.”

With the Scottish Government looking to scrap jail sentences of less than a year, Councillor MacLaren has called on the council to ensure that community payback orders are working.

He added: “I believe that across Renfrewshire we have a real opportunity to show that community payback orders can be successful.

“I have written to the chief executive to explore the idea of them being used in terms of restoring some of our buildings across the region, which really would give something back to the community.

“The Scottish Government are planning to scrap jail sentences of less than a year, which is misguided, so we need to ensure that community payback orders are fully working in communities.

“I hope that the council will be willing to look into this project as a possibility, which I believe can go some way to restoring some faith in our justice system.”

Renfrewshire Council confirmed it had received contact from Councillor MacLaren and said it plans to consider his proposals fully. 

A spokesman said: “We have received communication from Councillor MacLaren in relation to his proposals and while they present some challenges, we will consider them fully.

“Currently, those who are subject to a community payback order are involved in a number of schemes of real benefit to Renfrewshire.”

Archie White, Renfrewshire Council’s unpaid work coordinator, recently spoke about the Community Payback Team at a meeting of Ferguslie Community Council. 

He said the team, who are supervised by professionals, want to “help people who have nobody” by doing work around their homes that otherwise would be left undone. 

Mr White added: “We are getting more and more people coming through the door. The courts are sending more people as they try and avoid sending people to prison.”

Read all the latest from Renfrewshire and beyond