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Street lighting repairs are gradually returning to normal in Argyll and Bute, an officer has insisted, after a councillor complained that the Covid pandemic was becoming a ‘go-to answer’.
Kintyre and the Islands Councillor Alastair Redman made the claim after a report revealed that less than one in three street lighting repair jobs were completed within 10 days during the months from July to September.
But Jim Smith, the authority’s head of roads and amenity services, said supplies for street lighting repairs were being restored.
The discussion took place at a meeting of the council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee on Thursday December 3.
According to the report, only 29 per cent of street lighting faults were fixed during those three summer months – against a target of 75 per cent.
Councillor Redman told the meeting: ‘Our roads department was already between a rock and a hard place before Covid. We were short on resources and there were many things to fix.
‘I don’t mean to pile on at the time of a pandemic, but it does concern me the length of time it is taking to fix street lighting.
‘Very often the answer from the roads department is that due to Covid or staffing, we won’t be able to have anybody look at the light for the next month.
‘I am a little concerned that Covid is a go-to answer now for everything.
‘Perhaps that is unfair, but I have concerns if street lighting is not going to be looked at quicker.’
Mr Smith responded: ‘I can give assurance that we are not using Covid as an excuse. There are glitches out there, and through the winter months street lighting repairs are more numerous than during the summer.’
Provost David Kinniburgh then asked: ‘I know there are issues at the moment for street lights. Nothing is replaced because they are sourced from England, and because of Covid they were on furlough.
‘Do we have any update on when the supplier might be opening up again?’
Mr Smith answered: ‘There are supply challenges in numerous areas, but the demand remains the same, not just in the UK but across Europe as well.
‘The general position is that things are starting to trickle through and we are now receiving equipment that was not available before.
‘We have some lights to install in the Oban area which should have been with us a while ago. We have also had supply issues on things like parking meters.
‘So the short answer is that there remain some delays, and we are not in the position we were in pre-March to get things off the shelf, but it is beginning to improve.’
Commentary in the report said: ‘Due to the team being significantly reduced for a substantial period of time, the lighting team have been prioritising lighting repairs.
‘Actions are being taken to progress solutions to ensure the street lighting team have the resources necessary to carry out repairs.
‘The service plan on bringing in third party contractors to address the outages and communication is ongoing to address the more complex issues in order to get these resolved.’