Ask residents for winter help, says former council leader

'No appetite' for community involvement in winter maintenance

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A scheme for residents to participate in winter maintenance has been scrapped this year amid claims communities are not keen to be involved.

Argyll and Bute Council voted last week to remove £50,000 of funding for community resilience and instead use the cash as part of its general winter budget.

At a meeting of the council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee on Thursday September 2 council leader Councillor Robin Currie said: ‘I have attended a number of community council meetings which have discussed this over the last winter and there was no appetite for them to get involved in such a scheme.’

However, Mr Currie’s predecessor as council leader, Councillor Aileen Morton argued at the meeting that council bosses should reach out to communities to get them involved in Argyll and Bute’s winter maintenance.

Ms Morton said: ‘In my view, the council has the failing here.

‘We are the ones who have not engaged with communities.

‘I accept that in the last couple of years it will have been really difficult to do community engagement.

‘I also don’t anticipate it being deliverable in the next couple of months.

‘But there has been no serious effort to do this.

‘The report we got a couple of years ago told us that in Aberdeenshire and one of the Ayrshire councils, a strong message was going out.

‘We have never really tried to do this, so we need to show it is being taken forward and can be built up.’

Councillor Elaine Robertson backed up Ms Morton’s point, saying: ‘When I read this, I was disappointed too, because I do know of some communities that would like to take this up.

‘I have to admit that over the last year, the community councils have not been operating as normal, but I am reassured if we say it can be put back into the budget.’

Ms Morton added: ‘If we accept the recommendations then I will not move an amendment, but I do have a concern.

‘There have been many winters when we wouldn’t have needed communities to step up because the weather has been mild.

‘But there are other events that can be really extreme, such as the Beast from the East.

‘We wouldn’t want communities to be out there in the first day or two, but it would give us additional capacity.

‘I accept what has been said about picking it up in future years, and that we need to focus on arterial roads, but things like snow-clearing are focused on the economy.

‘Communities would sometimes prioritise areas that we would not.

‘I would not expect to roll it out everywhere in one go, but it is about engaging with a couple of communities if we are to start a campaign in future.’

Mr Currie, responded that there was nothing to stop the share being reallocated in future years: ‘I am quite satisfied with the recommendations as they are.

‘It would be absolutely nothing to put something back in as part of next year’s budget.

‘Just because we abandon something now, it does not mean to say it has been abandoned for all time, certainly not for me anyway.

‘If a successful budget next February sets £50,000 or £100,000, then that can be done.

‘It is something we should take on board and discuss in the coming months.’

The report was approved as per the recommendations.