Council’s recycling decision branded ‘shameful’

Jenna Campbell packing recycling sacks at Kintyre Recycling Limited.
The council's decision could put 19 KRL jobs at risk. In this 2018 photograph, staff member Jenna Campbell can be seen packing the recycling sacks which are currently used.

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Outraged members of the community have branded Argyll and Bute Council’s decision not to extend Kintyre Recycling Limited’s (KRL) kerbside collection contract ‘shameful’ and ‘callous’.

The Courier revealed last week that at a virtual meeting of the full council on Thursday, February 25, during which the authority’s budget for the next financial year was set, councillors opted to take recycling services in Kintyre in-house as of October 1.

The projected £210,000 cost of making the change is expected as a result of purchasing blue bins for every home in Kintyre.

KRL – whose workforce consists mostly of people with barriers to working – has ‘loyally and reliably’ provided the recycling service in Kintyre since 2006.

The charitable organisation’s directors say the council’s ‘appalling’ decision could put 19 jobs at risk.

When news of the decision broke, it prompted a backlash from members of the community, many of whom called for protests or a petition to reverse the decision, as well as demanding that the councillors who voted in favour of the move provide a clear justification for their reasons.

Councillor Rory Colville, depute policy lead for planning and regulatory services and South Kintyre’s only councillor to vote in favour of the decision, told the Courier this week: ‘This was a difficult decision to make. We would have loved to be able to continue funding the service. However, we have to face up to reality, however difficult that is.

‘The harsh reality is that changes in the recycling market unfortunately undermine KRL’s business model; the changes mean they will no longer be able to earn income from materials they rely on selling just now.

‘We maintained funding for KRL for as long as we possibly could, often prioritising it above other services that we’ve had to cut in previous years. However, we must deliver a sustainable recycling service for Kintyre; to do that, we must now unfortunately move to a different way of working.

‘KRL has provided a valued service for the area and we are committed to doing all we can to support KRL employees. Residents can look forward to recycling bins rather than bags and Kintyre will have a waste service ready to deal with legislative changes coming for recycling in 2022.’

Legislative changes will see the removal of glass, PET plastic bottles, steel and aluminium cans from the recyclate material collected by KRL and council services by the introduction of the Scottish Deposit Return Scheme, therefore removing an income stream for KRL.

Councillor Colville was among 19 councillors who 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.

Councillor Armour, who ‘pleaded’ with administration councillors to offer KRL a two-year contract, said this week: ‘I share the concerns and feelings of residents on this decision which I still find baffling as it is not about the council saving money. I am in discussion with KRL directors and will work to take forward their wishes and, if that includes a petition and lobbying the council, I will be happy to take this on.

‘The most important people are the loyal staff who have gone way beyond what was asked of them at times and if the council are taking this ‘in house’ on October 1, then they need to know as soon as possible what jobs they will be expected to do when they TUPE [Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)] over to the council.

‘It is also very important for candidates in the forthcoming Scottish parliament elections to let us know if they support this decision, especially the Conservative and LibDem candidates as it is members of their parties that agreed this decision to take the contract in house.’

Councillor Kelly, who could not attend the meeting and later described the decision to take recycling service in-house as ‘disgraceful’, added: ‘This is a very difficult and sad situation we find ourselves in regarding the future of KRL.

‘I would urge the public to contact the councillors who made this decision and ask them to justify their actions. I will be doing all that I can to support staff and employees at KRL in the hope that common sense might prevail and this decision will be overturned.’