THE borough council is letting down taxpayers by standing down its grass-cutting teams during the Covid-19 outbreak.

That’s the view of South Swindon Parish Council chairman Chris Watts, who said he was disappointed with the decision to suspend all maintenance.

When the lockdown began, Swindon Borough Council made the decision to stand down all grass-cutting services and significantly reduce litter picking.

Three weeks later it put in place a skeleton crew but that only provides a third of the normal staff.

Mr Watts said: “The parish council wants to get the message across to residents that the quality of maintenance of our open spaces is not of a level we would expect and this is due to Covid-19.

“When lockdown was announced, we were disappointed that the borough council stood down all grounds maintenance and Streetsmart staff without any consultation with us, despite South Swindon parishioners paying them to deliver these services.

“We were told that some staff were stood down due to a need to self-isolate and the remaining staff were being redeployed to services the borough council considered “essential”.

“After several weeks of lobbying by the parish the borough did eventually put on a skeleton grass-cutting service.

“However, the number of staff delivering this is a lot less than is usually the case at this time of year.

“As a consequence our parish open spaces do look poor and understandably some people have felt that this is not the service they’re paying for.”

Coun Watts says he does understand the situation currently facing the council, and the rest of the UK, but he still feels more should have been done.

He added: “We recognise the challenges faced and we do not have a problem paying for staff who need to self-isolate.

“However, we feel that the borough council have made decisions without recognising they are contracted to deliver a service. We are their customers.

“Last year we gave notice of our intention to self-deliver the grounds maintenance and Streetsmart services we’re responsible for and this should be completed later this year.

“We look forward to making our own destiny with the community services we’re responsible for and delivering a service our parishioners expect and deserve.”

A Swindon Borough Council spokesman said: “We’re pleased the parish council recognises the pressure we have been under as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

"Our team has worked incredibly hard since the Easter period to complete a four-week cutting cycle. The wet ground conditions prior to that meant we were unable to cut the grass as often as we would have liked.

“We will continue to do carry out the work for the parish council as best we can in these unprecedented circumstances.”