Memorial flowerbeds rap for council chief

Kelso War Memorial.
Kelso War Memorial.

A SENIOR council official had his knuckles publicly rapped after members of his staff filled in several flowerbeds at Kelso War Memorial.

At this week’s meeting of Kelso Community Council, the Scottish Borders Council (SBC) parks manager Jason Hedley and his colleague, Neil Pringle, were called to explain how the four flowerbeds surrounding the memorial had been removed with what was claimed to have been little or no local consultation.

The four beds are among a number in the town targeted for removal or filling in as part of the council’s efforts to cut back on floral provision spending.

But after they were filled in, uproar from residents in Kelso forced council staff to halt any further work.

Addressing community councillors on Tuesday night, Mr Hedley reminded them that he had come to Kelso in November for a meeting with the town’s Floral Gateway Group at which the issue of cutbacks in floral planting by the local authority was discussed.

SBC is faced with reducing public floral provision by 50 per cent across the region, though, at the moment, the work is only being done in the five pilot areas of Kelso, Peebles, Galashiels, Hawick and Melrose.

Mr Hedley said time had been “getting away from us” and a decision was taken to implement the work to cope with the grass cutting that was about to start.

“However, the council asked us to desist from doing this and we came to this meeting to explain. We have also been approached by a couple of people in the town to see if they could sponsor flowerbeds,” said Mr Hedley.

But community council vice-chairman, John Bassett, told Mr Hedley that the work at the war memorial had caused a great deal of upset.

He said the first he knew of the beds being filled in was when he was told about it by SBC Councillor Tom Weatherston.

“I am also the chairman of the local branch of the Royal British Legion and I didn’t know anything about it. You told us you would send us these plans.

“This is not our problem – this is a problem you have caused for the people of Kelso. This is why we wanted you down here to tell us why this happened.”

Mr Hedley said he had not realised the context of the invitation to address the community council and offered his apologies.

“But I did speak to you in November at a meeting and there was no dissension. We left you with plans.”

Councillor Bassett said those at the meeting referred to by Mr Hedley had been promised that plans with any amendments would be sent out before the work started.

Mr Hedley said he took on board the criticism being leveled at him. “I accept the criticism and promise to give you additional information in future,” he said. “It was just due to circumstances that information was not arriving a bit earlier,” he said.

“I think we should now be talking about how we move this discussion forward – now that I have had my knuckles rapped.”

Councillor Weatherston said: “There have to be cuts but where are we going to have them so that they cause the least visual impact on Kelso?” he asked.

Provost Fiona Scott, thanking Mr Hedley for attending the meeting, said she was sure he appreciated this had been a controversial issue.

“I know feelings have been running quite high in the town about this issue, especially over the war memorial.

“It is a site that needs to be treated with the utmost respect.”

Mr Hedley said he did not intend any further work on local flowerbeds to be done before the end of this month, so there was time for discussions within the community about the best way forward.

Anyone interested in donating money or other forms of assistance for the upkeep of local flower beds in Kelso is asked to contact community councillor John King on 01573 225451 (day) or 223646 (evening).