Chairmen warn cuts could be catastrophe

The community council chairmen says uncut grass makes the area look downtrodden and unkempt.
The community council chairmen says uncut grass makes the area look downtrodden and unkempt.

Angry community council leaders have accused Scottish Borders Council of failing the public after its latest round of service cuts.

Jedburgh, Hawick, Kelso and Ancrum community councils are calling on townsfolk to confront regional councillors over what they call back-door changes to neighbourhood services, including extending grass-cutting from fortnightly to monthly, scrapping bedding plant provision and introducing charges at public toilets.

A joint statement signed by community council chairmen Rory Stewart, of Jedburgh; Ian Turnbull, of Hawick; Dean Weatherston, of Kelso; and David Coyle, of Ancrum, describes scaling back grass-cutting as “a senseless act of stupidity” and claims it will put tourists off coming here.

It says: “Our main thoroughfares and amenity sites now look downtrodden, unkempt, uncared for and extremely unappealing for those that we wish to attract.

“With this senseless act of stupidity on the council’s part, these areas can no longer be enjoyed. The knock-on effect that this will have could be catastrophic both economically and aesthetically.”

Hitting out at the council’s Your Part initiative, encouraging volunteers to provide and tend flowerbeds after the local authority ceases to do so next year, the statement says: “There is only so much communities can take on.

“Removal of this service will again hammer another nail in the coffin of an already-delicate economy.”

It claims the 30p charge that has been introduced to use council-owned toilets across the Borders is also offputting for visitors and adds: “The neighbourhood services department seems to be scoring own goals at every juncture.

“All councillors must be taken to task on these matters or they will continue to enforce unwelcome cuts to services that will have a detrimental effect on our day-to-day lives.”

A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “The Council is carrying out a review of its Neighbourhood Services to identify and implement changes to the way we deliver some of our services to communities. This is to ensure environmental and financial sustainability of our services with the views and involvement of communities being key to the review.

“This includes grasscutting, with some parks and open spaces, grass verges and some amenity grass areas, including steeply sloping ground, looking different across the Borders. Changes include increased wildflower areas to improve the biodiversity of the area.

“There will also be a change of approach to general amenity grass areas - including cemeteries - so grass that was previously cut once every 10 working days is cut approximately every 20 working days. However, maintenance of key civic spaces and sports pitches remains unchanged.”

More information on the Neighbourhoods Review can be found at www.scotborders.gov.uk/neighbourhoodsreview.