OPPOSITION councillors are demanding a rethink of SBC’s decision to cut back on grass maintenance.

As part of its 2018-19 budget, the council’s maintenance team moved from a 10-day to a 20-day grass cutting cycle, sparking uproar from residents who felt their community spaces, particularly cemeteries, were being neglected.

The council has repeatedly refused to backtrack on the changes, saying that a consultation carried out in December 2017 was supportive of the cutbacks and that the budget had been agreed by full council in February 2018.

Now, opposition councillors are proposing that controversial areas such as cemeteries and village greens be designated as ‘high amenity sites’, entitling them to more frequent grass cuttings.

However, council officers have reportedly dismissed the idea as too costly.

Tweeddale West councillor Heather Anderson (SNP) said: “I wrote to the chief executive of the council in July suggesting that given the scale of public distress in relation to cemeteries, would it be possible to simply re-designate cemeteries as high amenity sites, like playing pitches, et cetera, and thereby include them in the more frequent grass cutting regime?

“I don’t believe the council administration would have to change the budget decision to do this, but it would go a long way to address public concern.

“Sadly I have had a reply stating that allocating cemeteries as high amenity areas and reverting them back to a 10-day cutting cycle would require additional manpower resources and therefore additional budget and it is not possible at this time.

“I accept that as we move into autumn the problem of our cemeteries looking like a wilderness is diminishing as the grass stops growing. But when the growing season starts next spring there will be the same problem unless this council administration changes its approach.”

In 2017, the council ran a trial of the 20-day cutting cycle, across 50 different sites, and changed the type of equipment council workers use to trim the grass.

Following the trial and the public consultation, which netted just 28 responses, the council rolled out the 20-day cutting cycle to most of its green spaces, including 154 cemeteries.

Opposition leader and Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell added: “Cemeteries are important public spaces and, like high amenity areas, require more careful maintenance. But the wider 10-day or 20-day cycle argument is nonsense. The grass needs cutting when it grows, not according to a monthly cycle.

“Everyone with a garden knows that their grass needs much more attention when it shoots up in the spring; but this year through the hot dry weeks the grass did not grow at all.

“Cutting even on a 20-day cycle when the ground is burning in the sun just destroys the grass.

“Scottish Borders Council might have budget problems, but with a flexible working pattern and bit more common sense they can keep our cemeteries tidy at an economical cost.”