THE deputy leader of East Renfrewshire Council, Paul O'Kane, is stepping down from the role after being elected to Holyrood – and plans to donate his councillor salary to local groups.

Mr O’Kane will also quit as leader of the council's Labour group and as education convener.

He intends to carry on serving his constituents in the Newton Mearns North and Neilston ward until the council election in May next year.

The new MSP, who represents the West Scotland region, will receive a basic salary – £18,604 per year – while continuing as an East Renfrewshire councillor.

Mr O’Kane wants to use that money to give “a boost” to local community groups, and he is currently deciding who to support.

“My intention is to try and get to the groups that don’t always qualify for the significant funds,” he said.

The education committee meeting tomorrow (Thursday) will be Mr O’Kane’s last as the chairman. A replacement for that role, and a new deputy leader, will be confirmed at a full council meeting on June 30.

“I think it’s important that those roles have someone who can dedicate their full time to that,” Mr O’Kane said, adding the education team needed someone who can provide “stability and support”.

The Labour group on the council is currently in the process of electing a new leader, who is expected to be nominated for the deputy leader role.

Colm Merrick, the education committee vice-chair, will cover until a new chairman is in place.

Mr O’Kane said it has been a “huge honour” to hold the two roles, providing “a stable administration and pushing forward with our shared agenda”.

In his time in the education position, he has had “the pleasure of presiding over” the opening of the new Barrhead High School and the joint campus at Newton Mearns for Catholic primary school St Clare’s and Calderwood Lodge, a Jewish primary school.

He has also worked on £30million school campus plans in Neilston, which will join both Neilston Primary and St Thomas’ Primary on one site, and the rollout of 1140 hours of free childcare, which has involved opening new nurseries.

Seeing young people in East Renfrewshire flourish has also been a highlight, Mr O’Kane said. As well as celebrating academic success, he has enjoyed handing out council awards to students for outstanding achievements. “That always makes me proud,” he added.

The councillor praised the dedication of “phenomenal” council officers, teachers and support staff, highlighting their work during the pandemic.