CALLS to redistribute cash for winter road maintenance in Argyll and Bute, and use the money to improve bin collection rates instead, have been rejected by local authority officials.

Councillor and former MSP Sir Jamie McGrigor made the request at a meeting of the environment, development and infrastructure committee, suggesting that a mild winter should have seen less spent on maintaining roads in winter.

But Jim Smith, the authority’s head of economic development, said that despite the higher temperatures, the number of road treatments during 2018-19 had remained the same as the previous year.

And the committee's vice-chair, Helensburgh councillor Ellen Morton, praised the work of the bin collection team in the area, claiming it is “well ahead” of other authorities.

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An extra £500,000 was allocated to winter road maintenance as part of the council administration’s budget for 2019/20 in February.

Sir Jamie, who represents the Oban South and the Isles ward for the Conservatives, said: “It was a very mild winter – is there any way we could quantify the amount of savings to the council if we don’t have to grit the roads so much?

“I have difficulty convincing my rural constituents that bin collection has improved.”

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Councillor Donald Kelly (Conservative, South Kintyre) then added: “As far as I am concerned we have just had the mildest and driest winter for some time.

“I find it difficult to understand why Argyll and Bute Council has managed to spend another winter maintenance budget.

“Machrihanish hardly used any grit this year. Why are we spending the budget again when we have had the best conditions?”

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Mr Smith replied to Sir Jamie: “It certainly was a mild winter, but the number of treatments to the roads was almost similar.

“The reason for that was that snow was followed by rain, meaning that salt which we put down was washed away.”

Councillor Morton then said: “I recently read that one council in Scotland, similar to us in terms of rurality and spread, does no recycling of rubbish at all, except in one town. Everything goes to landfill, in one bin.

“Houses and businesses have also received a letter saying that their bin will not be picked up as it is too heavy. People were asking when they would be issued with a new bin.

“If you compare that with what we are delivering in Argyll and Bute, we are well ahead in terms of our delivery of service.

“We don’t have a three-weekly bin collection. When we had one-weekly bin collections we had 50 a year.

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“Now, if you live in Helensburgh, we have a recycle waste bin and have anything between 70 and 150 collections a year.

“While we are going to have to deal with the landfill situation, I genuinely think that department is doing a very good job.

“To pick up on Councillor McGrigor’s point about road gritting, that came up earlier when several people said that the weather has been better – we haven’t had the Beast from the East or massive storms.

“But over November and December, my husband was de-icing the car every single morning, and by 8am or 9am it was clear with the sun coming up.

“There was an increase over several weeks of men being out gritting the roads. If the sensors trigger a warning then even if the sun is splitting the trees, these men need to be out there. If there was a death, just think how that would feel.

“Some issues are to do with perception rather than reality and officers are doing a good job.”

Council leader Aileen Morton then said: “Clearly Councillor Kelly feels it has been a dry winter – definitely better than it was last year.

“But Argyll and Bute is a diverse area and in January we had a number of councillors getting in touch with me because they weren’t happy with the current policy.”