As senior shop steward for the GMB at Scottish Borders Council, for the first time in 20 years I feel I have to put pen to paper about the local authority’s latest cutback in neighbourhood operations of £450,000 by 2016.
I feel the proposal is an attack on our rural cemeteries. When people buy ground off the council to bury their loved ones, they pay plenty for it and expect SBC to look after it and not be handed over to a third party to maintain – i.e. community groups.
The problems I have are:
1. Are the people SBC hopes will take over from it properly-trained – as all council staff who work in cemeteries have to be – with regard to grass-cutting equipment and use of poisons for spraying?
2. If they damage a headstone while cutting grass, who is going to pay for it?
3. If graves sink – which they do – who is going sort them out or will this be a hidden cost?
4. If, when cutting grass, a member of the public gets hurt or their car gets hit with a stone and damaged, who is going to pay – the community group?
These savings smack of a two-tier system – if you live in a large town you will be OK, but if you live in a small village or want buried in a small cemetery, the chances of getting your grass cut will be less likely.
I also see SBC is saying it could set up a community fund.
That indicates there is some spare money, so why not use it properly and look after our cemeteries and stop passing the buck back to the community who pay council tax for the services the local authority wants it to provide.