THE measures undertaken by Aberdeenshire Council to manage its response to Covid-19 led to the weed-lined streets around the town – so heard members of Stonehaven and District Community Council.
Last night’s Skype gathering of members came after a furious flurry on social media – and a letter sent to The Bellman by a resident looking for answers via the community council.
Acting area manager Bruce Stewart told members the onset of the pandemic forced the local authority to make decisions about which were key services – and reallocate manpower accordingly. Members of landscape services were redeployed to assist with burials and bin collections.
”The weed clearance regime was put on hold,” he said.
And, describing how services were gradually being reinstated, he said: ”Weeds were not seen as one of the critical services that needed to be brought back.”
Mechanical road sweepers are however back in action, which should help with the tidiness of the roads, he said.
Pleas for Town’s Pride and Wellbeing
Dawn Black of the Stonehaven Business Association said the weeds made everything look untidy.
”That does not help people have pride in the town, and they may think it doesn’t matter.”
Gerry Towler said he felt the town was now a very depressing place. And he feared with worse was to come with rising unemployment.
He said: ”Even just from a simple mental health perspective it would be good to make it a priority.”
This call was echoed by the Horizon Group convenor John Cruickshank who said: ”Our volunteers are almost at the point of exhaustion.
”The twice yearly spraying is very important. The fact that it has not been done has allowed the town to become overwhelmed with weeds at every corner.”
He added: ”It damages the reputation of the town.”
And Jim Stephen said he feared for the goodwill of the Horizon volunteers.
”Do not push them to the point where we scunner them,” he said.
Council Budget Deficit Must be Addressed
The discussions about weeds were in the context of an earlier item on the agenda – the Council deficit, which was earlier flagged at being in the order of £60 million pounds, though this figure is under constant review and is now less than initially feared.
Mr Stewart said work was underway to prepare a budget paper for the consideration of councillors in November, with directors having discussions with political leaders.
”All services being provided are under review,” he said. ”We are looking for savings and at restructuring services.”
Look to Angus
The quality of decision-making by Aberdeenshire Council’s senior management then came under scrutiny when Stonehaven resident of 20 years, Martin Anderson, compared local outcomes to those achieved by neighbouring Angus Council.
”I have travelled to Brechin every day for 10 years,” he said.
”There are no weeds in Brechin, where I see the men spraying. There is a huge difference in how they have controlled weeds and in grass cutting.”
He added: ”The industrial estate in Brechin looks 100% better than the centre of Stonehaven.”
Mr Stewart said: ”Aberdeenshire made a decision at the start as to what were its critical services.
”Angus Council clearly made a different decision.”