Council leader defends recycling decision

Councillor Robin Currie has welcomed new self-build home loan.
Council leader Robin Currie.

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Members of the community are continuing to call for Argyll and Bute Council’s decision not to extend Kintyre Recycling Limited’s (KRL) kerbside collection contract to be reversed.

At a virtual meeting of the full council on Thursday, February 25, when the authority’s budget for the next financial year was set, councillors voted in favour of taking recycling services in Kintyre in-house as of October 1.

The move, which is expected to cost £210,000 through the purchasing of a blue bin for every home in Kintyre, could put 19 KRL jobs at risk.

The charitable organisation’s workforce consists mostly of people with barriers to working who have ‘loyally and reliably’ provided the recycling service in Kintyre since 2006.

Nineteen councillors sided with the ruling administration’s spending plans which included taking recycling services in-house, while 13 councillors voted for the amended proposal put forward by the SNP opposition group, which suggested offering a two-year contract to KRL.

In addition to calls for protests or a petition to reverse the decision, members of the public have asked those who voted in favour of the decision to explain their reasoning.

Last week, Councillor Rory Colville, South Kintyre’s only councillor to vote in favour of the move, said he supported the ‘difficult decision’ because of ‘changes in the recycling market’ that ‘undermine KRL’s business model’.

This week, the Courier asked Kintyre and the Islands councillors Robin Currie – leader of Argyll and Bute Council – and Alastair Redman, who both voted in favour of the decision which will affect people living in their ward, to provide their justifications.

Councillor Redman had not responded by the time the Courier went to print but Councillor Currie said: ‘Our officers have been working with KRL over the past few years and the council has also provided a number of financial awards over the same period, always with a view to support KRL to continue delivering services for as long as possible.

‘However, changes in Scottish Government legislation are going to have a very considerable impact on how recycling services are delivered. In rural areas, this is likely to result in considerable additional costs, accompanied by very stringent targets to meet.

‘All of this means we have to find ways of providing these services in as sustainable a way as possible.

‘It is vital to address that as soon as possible – we have no choice but to comply with the requirements of that new legislation when it comes into force. Similarly, any other organisation responsible for the delivery of recycling services would also have to bear these additional pressures and significant costs which could potentially be prohibitive for smaller organisations.

‘That is the context of this particularly challenging decision, and it is a context which councillors absolutely had to bear in mind when considering the future delivery of recycling services in Kintyre.

‘Therefore we took the decision to agree a six-month extension to KRL’s contract, to work towards the longer-term sustainable delivery of recycling services for households in Kintyre, but also to give time to work with KRL in relation to the scope for transfer of their employees when the service is brought in-house.

‘Our officers made contact with KRL as soon as they possibly could following the budget to put those discussions and arrangements in motion. Every effort will be made to mitigate the impact of the decision to transfer the service back to the council.’

Kintyre and the Islands’ third councillor, Anne Horn, who voted against the decision, said: ‘When council officers suggested bringing recycling in-house on Islay it proved much more difficult than envisaged and over the anticipated budget. This is another reason I objected as the precedent proved to be a cost burden rather than the proposed saving.

‘The employees from KRL are inspirational in their attitude to their job and want only to work to the best of their ability.

‘There must be some replacement for the support the employees have while at the workplace and this will reflect on resources from the Health and Social Care Partnership.

‘Only time will tell if the potential savings materialise over future years and, for me, this is such a huge uncertainty I could not support this proposal.’