KRL binned as councillors opt for in-house recycling

Peter Lang operating the can sorter at Kintyre Recycling in 2016.
Peter Lang operating the can sorter at Kintyre Recycling in 2016.

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Staff at Kintyre Recycling Limited (KRL), many of whom face barriers to working, could lose their jobs after Argyll and Bute councillors decided to take recycling services in Kintyre in-house as of October 1.

KRL’s directors have voiced their ‘shock and bitter disappointment’ following what they call the ‘appalling’ decision not to extend the charitable organisation’s kerbside collection contract, which it has delivered since 2006, putting 19 jobs at risk.

The decision was made at a virtual meeting of Argyll and Bute Council last Thursday, February 25, when the authority’s budget for the next financial year was set.

Nineteen councillors, including South Kintyre’s Rory Colville, sided with the ruling administration’s spending plans which included taking recycling services in-house.

Thirteen councillors, including South Kintyre’s John Armour, voted for the amended proposal put forward by the SNP opposition group, which suggested offering a two-year contract to KRL.

The SNP amendment was backed by independent councillors Jean Moffat and Dougie Philand, who are not part of the ruling administration. Councillor Philand’s two Argyll First colleagues, George Freeman and South Kintyre’s Donald Kelly, were not in attendance for the vote.

While the decision to freeze council tax and invest in helping communities recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was welcomed, the decision not to renew KRL’s contract has proved to be controversial.

In a joint statement, KRL’s directors said: ‘We are shocked and bitterly disappointed at the council’s decision not to extend the kerbside collection contract for another 12 months.

We have been in negotiations with the council since September 2020 and at no point was there any discussions about awarding a contract of less than 12 months, so to hear that there was no option of more than six months presented to councillors was a complete surprise.

‘It was even more of a surprise that councillors voted so overwhelmingly in support of cutting KRL’s contract despite appeals not to.

‘KRL has delivered the kerbside recycling service since 2006, employing many staff with barriers to the workplace.

‘Many of the staff have been involved in recycling far longer, and at no point in all those years have we failed to deliver on our contract, despite exceptionally difficult circumstances over the years – much of that has come in the last 12 months – but the staff have always worked to overcome these challenges.

‘The council’s decision puts 19 jobs at risk following a period where Campbeltown has been hammered with job losses, demonstrated by an unemployment rate currently double the national average. The timing is appalling and the lack of empathy to a loyal and reliable charitable enterprise is an absolute disgrace.’

Councillor Armour told the Courier that he was ‘extremely disappointed’ by the decision.

He said: ‘I pleaded with administration councillors to amend their budget to agree with offering KRL a two-year contract or, alternatively, at the very least, a one-year contract. The two-year contract would have actually saved the council money so this was not about cost-cutting.

‘Everyone in Kintyre knows the fabulous work that KRL does and I find it very sad that the wonderful workforce, most of who have barriers to work, now face an uncertain future when KRL ceases to provide the service in Kintyre at the end of September.

‘I will continue to support KRL in whatever way it wants to take things forward.’

Councillor Colville said: ‘As someone who was previously chair of the then Campbeltown Area Development Group which helped with the introduction of supported employment, I fully appreciate and share the concerns relating to the employees.

‘I believe it is important to emphasise that the council will now work closely with KRL during this difficult period and ensure we do all we can to support their employees.

‘With new Scottish Government legislation due to be introduced next year regarding recycling and the introduction of the zero waste to landfill in 2025 target, change was inevitable and something the council has to plan for.

‘During the next six months, the council will be implementing the introduction of new recycling bins for every household, bringing Kintyre in line with the rest of Argyll and Bute.’

Councillor Kelly, who could not attend the meeting, added: ‘The decision to take the recycling service in-house is disgraceful and has been done without any proper consultation or consideration for what this service means to the community of Kintyre, and the life-changing benefits and opportunities it provides for many of the staff who work there.

‘KRL continuing to provide this service would, in my opinion, be the most cost effective option for the public purse. How a cash-strapped council can justify spending an additional £250,000 of council tax-payers’ money to deliver a similar service is beyond me and should be subject to public scrutiny.’