LARGS' four serving councillors have defended their decision not to hold a single public surgery for constituents in over two and a half years.

Labour councillor Alex Gallagher, SNP councillor Alan Hill, Independent Ian Murdoch and Conservative Tom Marshall each earn £16,000 in their roles representing Largs, Millport, Fairlie and Skelmorlie.

They say they ditched the practice of holding open evenings to allow people to air any concerns on local issues due to a lack of interest - despite a freedom of information request to the local authority showing it is still popular among most of North Ayrshire's other councillors.

The elected members say there are now better ways for the public to get hold of their councillor.

Mr Murdoch said: "I work as a handyman and am in all the areas I serve regularly. I am often stopped in the street by constituents and points are raised with me that need addressing.

"I am a visible local councillor and attend every community council meeting in Largs. My contact details are available online and I am happy to meet individuals at any time.

"However I never see the likes of Tom Marshall or Alex Gallagher in Largs town centre."

Cllr Gallagher says: "I have been a councillor for 12 years and held surgeries in each town for around eight or nine years. I held them for ten months a year so that was 44 surgeries in all.

"I found them to be largely a waste of time as people didn't attend.

"There are so many ways now in which you can contact your local councillor through phone, email or social media."

Cllr Hill said: "I took the decision some years ago to stop holding surgeries. This was not because I could not be bothered holding them but because no one was turning up.

"Sitting in an empty council building for an hour or two at a time does not help anyone and actually costs money in janitorial time and the hire of venues.

"The idea that a councillor is only available at a set time and on a day or two a month is extremely old fashioned. In this day and age constituents generally contact me by telephone, by email, by social media or by calling into my office in either Largs or Millport. None of the Ward 8 councillors currently hold surgeries and I am unaware of any demand for this to change. If that is not the case, and constituents would like the opportunity of attending a regular surgery, then I would be happy to recommence these at any time."

Cllr Marshall added: "Some councillors in certain areas with a high proportion of council housing tend to get a reasonable turnout of constituents at their surgeries.

"My past experience is that my constituents would rather make directly rather than waiting for up to a month to see me face to face.

"I respond within 24 hours to emails, phone calls, face to face meets and letters, on average six per week."

Andy Adair, who is a Largs community councillor, called for a rethink.

He said: "I find it strange that the councillors don't hold surgeries, and at the very least, they should be attending community councils. Alex Gallagher hasn't attended a community council meeting for years."

A North Ayrshire Council spokesman said: "There is evidence across Scotland that for some years, attendance at surgeries has been in decline.

"There is little relationship between the number of surgeries held by an individual councillor and the number of constituent queries they receive and deal with.

"Our councillors' details are on our website and they can be contacted via email or mobile phone, by constituents. The majority are also available via social media."

West Kilbride councillors Todd Ferguson (Conservative) and Joy Brahim (SNP) held 52 and 44 constituency surgeries in their wards respectively while Labour council leader Joe Cullinane held 53.

The top councillor was Labour's John Easdale who was the only councillor to reach three figures, with 108 meetings during the two and a half year period.