THREE councillors who haven't held a single surgery between them since the last council election in May 2017 have defended their decision not to arrange any.

Figures released to the Tele under Freedom of Information laws show that independents Ronnie Ahlfeld, Drew McKenzie and Lynne Quinn haven't logged any surgeries over the last four and a half years.

Mr McKenzie, who represents Inverclyde East Central and runs a successful butcher's in Port Glasgow town centre, told the Tele that he had an alternative arrangement in place to ensure that he could still meet his constituents.

He said: "I am in the wonderfully unique position in having a shop on the main shopping street in my ward, hardly a day goes past without someone dropping in for a wee word.

"I think over the last four years or so that works out at almost 1,500 surgeries - it works well."

Councillors Ahlfeld and Quinn, who both represent Inverclyde West, pointed out that while they did not hold traditional surgeries, they were both available to meet constituents every Wednesday from 9.30am to 10.30pm at the Gourock Municipal Buildings.

Mr Ahfeld said: "I estimate that prior to lockdown we met on between 35-40 occasions since we formed the heritage group in the Gourock Municipal Buildings - probably more than any other councillors.

"Additionally I attend community councils, tenants groups and other organisations.

"I have never had a complaint that constituents were unable to contact me.

"Normally I have circa 100 emails weekly and numerous phone calls from constituents.

"Traditional surgeries are often non-productive.

"In last few weeks I have had meetings with circa 30 constituents on a range of subjects."

Councillor Quinn says that traditional surgeries are 'way out of date'.

She added: "They may be useful for councillors who need to visit their ward maybe once or twice a month but not so for us who live in our wards.

"What I have heard from the councillors that hold surgeries is that the turnout is generally low.

"Why would a constituent need to wait until a surgery at a time that's convenient for the councillor but not for them?

"What if the case is urgent?

"In my experience most constituents prefer to call, email or direct message me on social media and we arrange a mutually suitable time in a suitable location if a meeting is required.

"However, most issues are resolved over the phone or via email without the need for a meeting - as I do this role full-time I am available seven days a week for the benefit of my community."

The figures show that two further councillors - John Crowther of the Scottish National Party and Natasha Murphy of Scottish Labour - have logged less than 10 surgeries since Inverclyde's last council election, holding five and seven respectively.

Inverclyde's two Conservative councillors, Graeme Brooks and David Wilson, were the two top performing councillors in terms of surgeries held, with 54 and 43 respectively.

Councillor Brooks told the Tele that he felt it was important councillors continue to hold in-person surgeries as frequently as possible, as many constituents prefer them to sending an email or phoning their representatives.

He said: "It's very important for elected representatives to be accessible.

"I'm committed to doing work that gives constituents the chance to meet face to face with their representatives."

While the ruling Labour group has the most council seats of any party, it has the lowest average surgeries recorded per councillor with 22.4.

Councillor Tommy McVey was the only indepedent to log any surgeries, having held 19 since the last election.

Several councillors haven't held any surgeries since the pandemic began in March of 2020.