Councillors to go a year without meeting

Kilmory Castle, in which the candelabra once resided, is now Argyll and Bute Council's headquarters.

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Councillors in Argyll and Bute will go a full year without meeting in person after plans to continue virtual meetings until April were rubber-stamped.

However, council chiefs have been urged to bring the technology they use up-to-date, after technical hitches regularly affected meetings held remotely.

Councillors were affected by connectivity issues during the meeting of the full council last Thursday, September 24, including depute provost Roddy McCuish, who was chairing the meeting.

Councillor Gordon Blair also lost his connection during a vote on the council’s submission to the Boundary Commission, although his vote would not have changed the outcome.

The normal schedule of council and committee meetings will now resume – including the powerful policy and resources committee, which hasn’t met since February.

The temporary ‘business continuity committee’, which has dealt with the council’s most urgent business in the absence of regular meetings during the Covid-19 pandemic, will be suspended.

Addressing the technical issues affecting meetings held by Skype, South Kintyre councillor John Armour said: ‘The problems have been highlighted today in that Councillor Blair was cut off just as we were voting on the previous motion on the Boundary Commission. To me, that is not good enough.

‘On this occasion it would not have made any difference had Councillor Blair been able to vote but had that been a crucial vote where it could have swayed one way or the other, that would have been different. Something needs to be done to ensure that does not happen in future.’

Fellow South Kintyre councillor Rory Colville, who missed the start of the meeting, said: ‘This morning the problem was at my end, with the lack of broadband width. If I use video conferencing I will lose my voice.

‘I think IT are looking at all the options, but this is Argyll and Bute and we do have connectivity problems at individual households. It will never be perfect but it works.’

All the council and committee meetings which have been held during lockdown have used the Skype platform, with councillors speaking via audio link only but with no visual connection.

Council leader Robin Currie said: ‘I totally appreciate what my fellow councillors are saying. I would like to get back to face-to-face meetings, or partial face-to-face meetings, but we are following government guidelines.’

A review of the process will be conducted and reported to the council in April 2021.