A telecoms giant is having to defend its performance from critics in Argyll who say local residents should seek more reliable providers.

Gina Chicken, Secretary and Tarbert and Skipness Community Council says that Vodafone signal in Tarbert on Loch Fyne has been out since March 31 and the current information from the company was that it wouldn't be restored until today at the earliest.

She said the community council had discussed the reliability of various mobile phone providers and came to the conclusion that, "while all of them will have failures from time to time, only Vodafone are out for days and weeks at a time.

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"As a result we concluded that anyone wanting a reliable service here in Tarbert should not use Vodafone but change to another provider . Both the 'EE' and 'Three' Networks were quoted as offering a good service by those who were at the meeting.We would be happy to change our recommendation if we were to get plausible reassurances from Vodafone guaranteeing the future reliability of their service," she said.

Mike Russell, SNP MSP for Argyll and Bute said "I agree with the community council. It is totally unacceptable. I have been in touch with Vodafone repeatedly, most recently a few ago. It is the same on the island of Luing where the First Responders had reception one week out of four. Last year it was the same story in Lochgilphead. So my advice to constituents is that if they can find a better provider they should walk away from Vodafone."

A spokeswoman for the company apologised to customers in Tarbert experiencing signal problems and explained the link which connects a local mast to the rest of the network had developed a fault.

"These are owned and managed by a third party. In order to remedy this, engineers will have to climb the mast and that requires compliance with stringent safety standards and the presence of a supervision team. We're hopeful that engineers will be able to complete an investigation today. We understand how frustrating it is for our customers but the nature of radio communications means that we cannot guarantee a fault-free service. We're doing everything we can to get the site up and running as soon as possible"

But Mrs Chicken said this offered no guarantees of better performance in the future. "Nor does it recognise that we aren't complaining about signal failures. We are complaining about the length of the failures by Vodafone."