GRASS at Argyll and Bute’s cemeteries could be cut less often in a bid to manage expectations after concerns were raised about their condition.

The suggestion came after a Helensburgh councillor said that the current scheduled number of cuts – 15 per year – seemed like “quite a lot”.

The matter was raised at a meeting of the council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee on Thursday, September 12.

The committee was debating a report by Audit Scotland which said it was important to keep maintenance levels at parks and open spaces at its current level.

Cowal councillor Alan Reid said: “There is enormous dissatisfaction in my area about the maintenance of local cemeteries, which are meant to have the grass cut 15 times a year. It has been nowhere near that, this summer or last.

“The grass is very high and it is causing people extreme distress when they go to visit relatives’ graves to find that the cemetery is kept in such an untidy condition.

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“It is very disrespectful. We charge people a very large sum of money and then don’t maintain the cemetery.

“I know the department has problems, but surely we owe it to people who have passed away to treat cemeteries as a high priority.”

Helensburgh councillor Ellen Morton said: “One thing I thought about is whether we should also be looking at the targets we set ourselves.

"My reaction was that to cut the grass 15 times a year seems quite a lot.

“Would it be better to consider three times, at the start, middle and end of the season, and do them properly?

“If you tell the public you are going to go out 15 times a year and end up not doing that, you trigger an adverse reaction.

“But if you cut them effectively and properly maybe five times, you would get a positive reaction. Is there any merit in looking at that?”

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Jim Smith, head of roads and amenity services, said: “We will see what is achievable. It’s something we can bring back to members in due course.”

He also said the department had lost almost 120 staff in the last decade.

Cllr Morton replied: “We have to keep that in mind. We cannot ask our officers to do what they are not resourced to do.

“Our budget is cut dramatically but not only that, an enormous chunk of education and social work is ring-fenced.”

Councillor Gary Mulvaney, the council’s depute leader, added: “Over the last eight to nine years our budget has reduced by £50 million, and the key thing is expectation management.

“The council isn’t in the same position it was in 10 years ago in delivering the same quality of service, and we have difficult choices to make.

“Looking at next year’s budget there are even more difficult choices. Things we have said ‘no, we can’t make that saving’ about are back on the table.”

“People out there genuinely do understand there are less resources now.”

The council was forced into an embarrassing U-turn in 2017 over plans to significantly reduce the number of times their staff cut the grass at cemeteries in Cardross, Rhu and Tarbet.

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Councillor David Kinniburgh gave an example of a ‘less is more’ approach, saying: “There is a flower bed in Darleith Road [in Cardross] which was recently planted, and a resident phoned to congratulate us on its appearance, saying it was one of the best that they’ve ever seen.

“It’s a small flower bed we are talking about, but what an improvement it has made.

“Sometimes less is better if you are doing it properly.”