05:59PM, Friday 19 November 2021
Work has been ongoing to improve the state of cemeteries like at All Saints (pictured)
An apology has been made to residents over the state of cemeteries in Windsor and Maidenhead.
The council’s environmental services contractors, Tivoli, faced questions about its performance during a communities overview and scrutiny panel last night.
The company came under pressure in the summer over the condition of cemeteries in the borough with residents left ‘horrified’ by overgrown grass, litter and graffiti.
Former Conservative councillor for Clewer, Ed Wilson, told Tivoli’s representatives at the meeting: “The cleaning and maintenance of cemeteries this year by Tivoli and the Royal Borough has been disgraceful.
“Spital Cemetery has always got a large amount of litter in it. Grass cutting here is more like grass harvesting, there’s very long grass on the other side of the cemetery and you can’t even see some of the headstones.”
Oldfield Councillor Helen Taylor also hit out at the way Braywick Cemetery had been maintained over the summer months and questioned the way some mourning residents had been treated by Tivoli staff.
She added: “We have had a lot of complaints about disrespectful behaviour when maintenance is being carried out.”
Spencer Rock, chief operating officer at Tivoli, responded: “You cannot disrespect the dead and it is something we want to improve in certain areas.
“All I can do is apologise for any distress or distraught residents we may have around the graves.”
Tivoli has been responsible for cutting grass, bushes and maintaining the borough’s open spaces since 2018.
But the company said its contract with the borough does not cover the cost of delivering the ground maintenance service with the company revealing it made a £400,000 loss in 2019/20.
It is now locked in a dispute process with the council over its environmental services contract.
The meeting heard that Tivoli's performance has improved since the problems faced over the summer.
The company blamed its poor performance on a range of issues including the ‘pingdemic’ which led to staff shortages due to COVID-19 self-isolation.
The impact of Brexit also led to Tivoli staff being poached for in-demand jobs such as HGV driving.
Climate change has also led to the grass growing for longer periods, from March to November compared to April to September, the company added.
Liberal Democrat councillor Catherine Del Campo responded: “It’s been a tough year but a lot of the problems pre-date COVID, Brexit and supply issues.
“It does seem the contract has been underbid and let for that reason and now there’s a renegotiation taking place.”
There will be displays at Windsor Racecourse and Legoland, local fireworks in Burnham and Twyford and smaller displays at schools in the Royal Borough.