THIS week's letters from readers of the Advertiser include views on Argyll and Bute Council spending cuts and reaction to news that a former Helensburgh optometrist was struck off for putting patients at serious risk of harm.

To have your say on any local issue, all you have to do is email your views to Please keep your contributions as brief and to-the-point as you can, and include your name and address.

We also need a daytime contact phone number in case we need to check any details at short notice, though this will not be published.

Happy writing!

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The Liberal Democrat led Argyll and Bute Council will hold its annual slaughter of public services next Thursday.

Their "pay more, get less" philosophy is causing real harm to residents but the bloated excess of middle management remains protected.

Are 36 councillors really needed to rubber stamp the relentless service cuts? Councillors have to turn up for a meeting every six months to qualify for salaries of up to £33,857 (plus expenses and a forthcoming rise).

Housing, social work and leisure have been removed from council control, and education and roads spending is effectively allocated by council officers. So what remains to justify the current self-serving bureaucracy that is local government?

Helensburgh and Lomond residents provide the largest share of council funding but get the least back, so suffer most from the "pay more, get less" philosophy. Sadly, there is no will to change that from any politician of any stripe.

For many the Liberal Democrat approach means "pay more, pay even more".

An elderly widowed lady has already seen her council tax rise 62 per cent, or by more than £1,200, in the last two years and faced large bills for damage to her car caused by the explosion of potholes in the council's roads.

The malaise is infectious, as councillors on the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Board have also rubber stamped a new 'litter manager' position, when the effective option would be to spend that £43,000 cost on more bins and collections.

It almost makes one wish a few old fashioned Tories had been elected to serve at the last council elections.

James Robb, Helensburgh

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I HAVE noted the concerns that have been raised within communities across Argyll and Bute relating to some of the cuts in services being proposed in the council’s upcoming budget due to the Scottish Government’s ongoing massive cuts in funding for local authorities.

As is often the norm, there are some high profile proposed budgets cuts that attract a great deal of public attention. This year, one of these is the proposed cuts to the “lollipop” school crossing patrol service. This has attracted a great deal of criticism from the public, with many people adding their names to petitions to save such services.

Call me cynical but I believe that this is likely to be one of the proposals that are included in the budget papers so as to distract the public from all the other cuts in services included in the budget proposals and then, hey presto, money will be found at the last minute to save the service.

Given the secretive way budgets are dealt with, I may be wrong, but, having said that, I would be most surprised if the school crossing patrols are not saved at the last minute.

We are told that the priority for the council is to protect statutory services with funding being taken from those services that are non-statutory.

One of the major non-statutory services that the council continues to fund is Argyll Air Service and Oban Airport which provide air services to the islands of Coll, Colonsay and Tiree. This service is costing the council hundreds of thousands of pounds every year with the latest indications being that the new contract for this service will cost the council hundreds of thousands of pounds more.

At a time when local services across Argyll and Bute continue to be cut, the question must be asked of whether the council can continue to plough hundreds of thousands of pounds into a contract that provides non-statutory services to only three of our inhabited islands with a total population of under 1,000 – while another 19 inhabited islands with populations of more than 10,000 receive no such service.

I believe that this is a non-statutory service that the council must now consider cutting in an attempt to save other local statutory services.

I raised this issue by email with Councillor Gary Mulvaney, the council’s Conservative policy lead for strategic finance, and Councillor Sandy Taylor, he leader of the council’s SNP group, and copied my proposal to all other Helensburgh and Lomond councillors.

Councillor Mulvaney was the only one to reply, but made no reference to considering my proposal to considering cutting this non-statutory service in an attempt to save other local statutory services across Argyll and Bute as part of his budget proposals.

When referring to the upcoming council budget, Councillor Aileen Morton, as leader of the council, stated in her recent press release that “more and more, councils must focus on delivering their statutory services”.

Unfortunately it would appear that Cllr Morton and her administration will not be practicing what she preaches, as it appears that she will continue to plough hundreds of thousands of pounds into Argyll Air Services in her upcoming budget.

Unfortunately, we do not know what the SNP group on the council thinks as so far, they have ignored my proposal on this important issue.

I believe that it is time that the council put the ever-reducing local statutory services first, instead of paying hundreds of thousands of pounds for a non-statutory service that benefits so few people while the majority continue to fund this service.

Cllr George Freeman (Independent, Lomond North)

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I WAS stunned to read the article in the Helensburgh Advertiser of February 7 concerning Mr Malcolm Craig, optometrist, who had a practice in Helensburgh.

I was not at the hearing, so am aware that I do not know the details of the charges, but still feel compelled to write with my experiences.

My partner and I moved to the area 35 years ago and signed up with Mr Craig until he retired. As I have the possibility of an inherited eye condition, I visited Mr Craig every year and once my partner’s sight started to deteriorate, he, too, became a client.

Not only did we find his expertise, advice and above all caring and pleasant attitude, better than previous experiences elsewhere, we always enjoyed our visits and actually looked forward to them.

We both felt at ease in his company and liked his relaxed and unhurried attitude. He always had the latest equipment and was happy to explain how the machines worked and what they achieved. I do not accept the charge of “failing to make patient care his first concern”.

Mr. Craig was a difficult optician to replace and I know we are not the only ones who still miss his professional style.

Eventually, we signed on to new opticians, and whilst they are efficient and use the same machines and procedures, the “customer experience” is very different. I was given the same tests and procedures as I had with Mr Craig.

I am writing this letter to the Advertiser as I do not have a contact address for Mr Craig and feel so strongly that I want him to know how my partner and I feel.

No matter what the General Optical Council decided upon, he was hugely respected and appreciated and we feel no different about him now, apart from sadness that this situation has to be so publicly aired.

Jean Kilshaw, Rahane

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Your front page article of February 7 on Mr Malcolm Craig, 'Burgh optometrist put patients at serious risk', is the latest example of the role of the jobsworth in the employ of our public sector.

The article states: "Inspectors from NHS Highland visited his practice on two occasions, and after examining the records of 22 of Mr Craig's patients, concluded that 'the standard of care fell far below the standard expected of a reasonably competent optometrist'."

It further states: "Mr Craig's practice was randomly selected for a visit by the practitioner services team of NHS Highland in November 2014. After concerns were identified by the inspection team, a second targeted visit was carried out at his now closed premises in West Clyde Street in June 2015."

Mr Craig retired three years ago after an unblemished record of patient care in Helensburgh over 30 years. He has no intention of returning to work.

As in all medical fields, there is increased box ticking required of all health care professionals. The NHS Highland practitioner services team are not qualified optometrists They filled out tick box forms in a report on Mr Craig's ability to tick boxes. No doubt, the team will be up for an outstanding achievement award from their superiors.

Why has this honourable man been publicly humiliated at the instigation of NHS Highland?

If you have been keeping up with the news, the integrated joint board (IJB) of Argyll and Bute's health and social care partnership, run by the council and NHS Highland, has been unable to balance the books for the past few years, and the local used car salesman who we pay to sit on the IJB, Councillor Gary Mulvaney, predicts further losses ('Ban on non-essential spend at health board', Helensburgh Advertiser January 31.)

Why is the IJB and its members not being held to account and being subjected to the modern equivalent of being held in the stocks and pelted with rotten fruit on the front page of the local paper?

John Black, 6 Woodhollow House, Helensburgh