There is “no excuse” for the council not to increase maintenance in lower used cemeteries, according to Ronnie Nicholson, Leader of the Labour Group on Dumfries and Galloway Council.
Following a meeting between the Leader and Council officers, DGFirst has agreed to double the number of cuts in cemeteries affected to around once a month and Councillor Nicholson has pledged the new council administration will monitor the situation closely.
Ronnie Nicholson said, “This time last year grass had hardly started to grow much due to the poor weather, so it’s clear the council has been caught out this year due to the milder winter. However, when councillors set the budget we expressed concerns at the impact of a possible overall saving in ground and public open space maintenance of £260,000. That’s why we proposed reducing the saving to £200,000, allowing the department to keep a contingency fund of £60,000 to deal with circumstances exactly like this”.
“The overall savings in cemeteries only comes to £66,000 without the contingency fund. I am therefore disappointed the fund was not partly used to deal with the problem in cemeteries and I made clear that was not acceptable. As a result, the minimum number of cuts will be doubled to around once a month during the growing period and the new administration will be watching this issue carefully. “
However, the Council Leader has warned that local residents need to “wake up” to the scale of the financial challenges facing the council over the next few years.
Ronnie Nicholson added, “Over the next three years the council needs to make savings of £27 million as a result of Government cuts and that is on top of the £30 million that has been slashed from our budget over the past three years. Frankly, it’s a remarkable achievement that so far this has been achieved without more complaints and that’s a testimony to the hard work of council staff who continue to provide a high level of customer service. “
“However, anyone who seriously thinks that the savings we have to make will be easy and there won’t be an impact on services is frankly living in a dream world. People need to wake up to the challenge the council is facing. That means not only saying they are unhappy with a particular saving, but saying where they would make the massive cuts required. When making decisions, we will try to build in the type of flexibility in budgets we agreed in relation to grass cutting which allows the problem identified in cemeteries to be easily resolved through the contingency fund. But I have no doubt there will be a number of very difficult, unpopular but unfortunately unavoidable decisions to be made over the next few years and all politicians need to be honest about that.”