Grass-cut­ting at ceme­ter­ies is ear­marked for the chop

The Oban Times - - News - DAVID MCPHEE dm­cphee@oban­times.co.uk

CEME­TER­IES on Is­lay are get­ting cut … from the coun­cil’s grass- cut­ting sched­ule.

As a way to save money, Argyll and Bute Coun­cil is re­duc­ing the num­ber of times it cuts the grass to once a year.

The coun­cil bud­get states that grass- cut­ting will be car­ried out once, ei­ther in Oc­to­ber or Novem­ber, with some ar­eas re­turned to meadow or nat­u­ral growth, and hedges will be main­tained in win­ter only with one cut per year.

Alastair Red­man, who runs the post of­fice on Is­lay, said: ‘I was very un­happy to hear that our coun­cil may stop cut­ting grass at the ceme­ter­ies on Is­lay.

‘ While I un­der­stand sav­ings must be made some­where and that the pool of money the coun­cil has gets smaller ev­ery year due to the coun­cil tax freeze, front-line ser­vices should be the last to be hit and the coun­cil should look at re­duc­ing the pay-pack­ets of some of its well-paid man­agers – such as Argyll and Bute’s chief ex­ec­u­tive who re­ceives £118,251 per year.

‘Many lo­cal res­i­dents have been voic­ing their anger about the main­te­nance cuts to our ceme­ter­ies to me and I would im­plore our elected of­fi­cials to re­con­sider this move.’ A spokesman for Argyll and Bute Coun­cil said: ‘ This is a time of un­prece­dented chal­lenge for lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

‘Dras­ti­cally re­duced fund­ing means we have to save more than £10 mil­lion in 2016/17 alone. This means we can’t do ev­ery­thing we would like to do for our com­mu­ni­ties.

‘ We have re­duced grass- cut­ting at old ceme­ter­ies on Is­lay, which are full.

‘By re­duc­ing grass- cut­ting, we can keep our en­vi­ron­men­tal war­den ser­vice, keep pub­lic con­ve­niences open, keep hang­ing bas­kets and an­nual bed­ding dis­plays – things our com­mu­ni­ties told us were im­por­tant to them.’

Coun­cil­lor for Oban South and the Isles, Roddy McCuish, echoed the coun­cil’s sen­ti­ment and added: ‘It’s re­gret­table that we are at this po­si­tion, and hope­fully in the fu­ture this will change, but, un­for­tu­nately, re­duced fund­ing means re­duced ser­vices.

‘I will be ask­ing for the sched­ules to come back to the area com­mit­tee to see if we can pri­ori­tise or change the way we do this but still make the same sav­ings.’

A spokesman for Tax­payer Scot­land, an ad­vo­cacy group for Scot­tish tax­pay­ers, said: ‘Argyll and Bute ap­pears from its pol­icy to be min­imis­ing what it spends on look­ing af­ter these ceme­ter­ies. No doubt other needs take prece­dence and it is more than likely right about that.

‘What is now needed is some imag­i­na­tion on how to re­solve the is­sue if lo­cal peo­ple are con­cerned.

‘There are nu­mer­ous com­mu­nity-based vol­un­tary ap­proaches to this that would cost tax­pay­ers noth­ing. These should be ex­plored by the com­mu­nity and its coun­cil.

‘Scots must stop al­ways as­sum­ing that the pub­lic sec­tor will pay for ev­ery­thing. It can’t. As the say­ing goes, “there is no more money” to be taken from tax­pay­ers with­out mak­ing ev­ery­one poorer.’

Alastair Red­man sug­gests cuts to ex­ec­u­tives’ salar­ies.

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