Council row erupts over grass-cutting move

A bitter row has erupted in the ABC Council over the lack of grass cutting in the borough.

Councillors last week voted by majority decision to ask Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy to attend the next meeting and discuss the matter.

But the move has been criticised by Ulster Unionists, with Councillor Colin McCusker, who claimed the DUP and Sinn Fein had gone against a recommendation from chief executive Roger Wilson.

He said, “A proposal from the chief executive seeking approval ‘to have further discussions with Roads Service departmental officials’ about ‘maintaining sites of strategic importance’ was blocked by the DUP and Sinn Fein.

“Instead of supporting the recommendation from the chief executive, Sinn Fein and the DUP supported a change to the proposal that included the Minister be invited to a meeting of the ABC Council and that the council engage in a PR campaign to educate the citizens of the borough as to who was responsible for the lack of grass cutting in the area.

“It is disappointing, albeit not surprising, to see the DUP and Sinn Fein on ABC Council joining forces to attack the UUP. This is a mirror image of what is happening at Stormont. The two largest parties at the Stormont, join forces to starve Danny Kennedy of vital finance to run his department, and then their colleagues on the local councils lambast him for not cutting the grass.”

Mr McCusker said he was not aware of six-foot high grass in the borough but the DUP’s Carla Lockhart claimed the area looked like a “wilderness” .

Speaking following the Council meeting Cllr Lockhart said: “There was frustration vented from across the chamber about the state of the Borough and the urgent need for grass cutting by the Department of Regional Development.

“Council are doing their job and so are the Housing Executive but it is clear that DRD under Minister Kennedy’s directive are not permitted to engage external contractors thus leaving a situation where grass will be cut once per year by internal staff who do not have the equipment and are limited in the amount of fuel they can use.

“This is a totally unacceptable situation particularly when you are trying to attract investment and encourage residents to adopt some civic pride.

“I therefore made the suggestion that Minister Kennedy be invited to the Borough and taken on a tour to see the height of the grass and state of the place.

“The depth of feeling on this issue is extremely great and it is totally despicable in this day and age that rate payers cannot get communal grass areas cut.

“Council often get the blame for the lack of grass cutting but the issue is it is DRD that is abdicating from its responsibility because the local teams have been given no budget to complete grass cutting, street lighting checks and maintenance and also the cleaning of gullies.

“A serious accident is waiting to happen and if action is not taken. It was agreed by a majority vote that Minister Kennedy be invited down to see and hear from members on this matter.”