West Lothian Council still makes the cut for locals despite pandemic

West Lothian is “ahead of the curve” in tackling issues like litter, weeds, grass cutting and road verge maintenance, the man in charge of service teams has said.

Monday, 6th September 2021, 3:33 pm
Stock Picture Michael Gillen.

Initial feedback from the community choices programme, which asks the public about council decisions and direction on street cleaning and grounds maintenance, is largely positive, c ountryside manager Andy Johnston told councillors last week. And the council – having taken difficult decisions three years ago now appears to be “ahead of the curve” compared to authorities which have not tackled tough budget decisions.

The council’s Neighbourhood Environment Teams (NETS) have been under pressure throughout the pandemic, with reduced numbers because of illness and isolating, and because often they have been redeployed to help other teams such as cleansing.

In spite of this Mr Johnston reported that teams were up to date with cutting season demands.

Councillor Stuart Borrowman said: “I know you guys have had a tough time of it. And we always hear stuff like ‘It’s nicer, it’s better somewhere else’. Have we been more affected than other areas? Are our policies noticeably different, or are we middle of the road?”

Mr Johnston replied: “I think it’s a mixed bag but I’d say we were middle of the road.”

He added: “I think we are probably ahead of the game in terms of efficiency saving and budget reductions. We put them in place in 2019 and we’re now beginning to see the impact. Other councils have still to implement their changes. They have yet to see the impact of reduction in service standards

“We have got a consistent service standard across the county in town centres and rural areas.”

He added initial feedback from communities suggested “we have got our priorities right” . Pre-pandemic the council faced howls of protest when they opted not to cut grass in parkland and to re-wild road verges.

Going forward the NETS teams are working with open space officers to see what works around the country, and what could be adopted.

Cllrr Borrowman said: “I think that’s a fair point you make. We are slightly ahead of the curve having made the budget decisions already.”