'Can we find a cutting edge solution?' asks councillor who says communities deserve a better service despite the cash-problems

By Nub News Reporter

10th Jun 2024 | Local News

Cllr Gary Byrne joined the team smartening up the Homesteads Village Hall grounds.
Cllr Gary Byrne joined the team smartening up the Homesteads Village Hall grounds.

A LEADING borough councillor is calling on the ruling Labour group to prioritise improvements to the local grass-cutting and public space maintenance plans.

Cllr Gary Byrne, who represents the Homesteads ward in Stanford-le-Hope and who has recently been elected by councillors to chair the authority's 'Place' overview and scrutiny committee, says he appreciates the problems faced by the cash-strapped council but says keeping the borough looking smarter can only be beneficial in the long term.

And he says that the following the commitment shown by a lot of residents in his and adjoining wards to maintain local spaces by undertaking grass cutting and pruning on verges and hedges, the council should respond as well.

He has already made a personal contribution, paying for Sue's Gardening Services to come in over the past weekend to carry out grounds maintenance on Homesteads Village Hall, which he manages.

"That's the council's responsibility to do, but I found it dispiriting to see the place looking such a mess, so I did something about it.

Residents have been taking on keeping the grass outside their homes in order. Cllr Byrne asks if an incentive scheme might make this a more widespread practice until the council is in a better financial position.

"And I've noticed that a lot of residents are doing the same thing. I'm seeing people mowing verges, for example.

"It's really good to see that community spirit and in the long terms, making our pavements adn roads and open spaces look good is going to lift people, and it also shows that this borough hasn't been beaten by the failures of the previous Conservative administration.

"They made a promise to us residents that their priority would be a 'cleaner, greener, safer' Thurrock and their mismanagement of the finances means there's not a pot left to do the proverbial in, so the environment service team has been cut back."

Cllr Byrne says he fully understands the difficult situation the council is in and acknowledges that the new Labour administration is faced with many difficult decisions.

He added: "They don't have a magic wand and I recognise that there are some services that are truly life-affecting that the council had to maintain and some of them are more important, so we may have to let the grass grow a bit.

"But there has to be a way to do better, to find the cash to fund an improved service - or maybe even to offer an incentive in some way, shape or form to residents to do some of the work.

"We've got great communities across the borough, and while I understand a view that people pay council tax or these services, we have to be realistic.

"The Tories recklessly slashed and burned their way through hundreds of millions and crashed this council. It's going to take a lot of fixing - and to speed that up we may have to look outside the box and where we can, and those of us who can afford it, perhaps we can all do a little more.

"We have to try. It's depressing to see some of the sights we currently endure and with a little bit of imagination I am sure we can do more. There must be constructive things to do to improve the situation and I will be talking with colleagues and officers at the council to see if there are ways we can make a difference."


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