THOUSANDS of city residents are to be offered free or heavily subsidised help with maintaining their gardens for the first time.
The council-run Garden Aid scheme – which gives the elderly and disabled access to gardeners to trim their lawns and cut hedges – is to be extended to include 75-to-79-year olds.
Previously, only those aged 80 or above had automatically been eligible for the service, which is used in 3400 gardens in the Capital.
However, the changes in the criteria, which are set to cost the local authority an extra £170,000 in its 2013-14 budget, will bring Garden Aid into the reach of more than 1000 people in council homes and 6000 who live in their own properties or privately rented accommodation.
The city’s housing leader, Cammy Day, said that he hoped the overhaul would reward good tenants and save the elderly cash at a time when fuel prices are soaring and pensions and housing benefit are being tightened by the UK government.
He said: “We know some older people can struggle with cutting their grass and hedges. We’re in tough times and people who have been good tenants should be rewarded.
“This is something small that local authorities can do to help older people. If we didn’t do this the knock-on effect would be that they would have to pay some private company to do it. If they are unable to do that it could have an effect on their tenancy if the garden starts to become a nuisance.”
The service, which runs between March and November, sees the council arrange for grass to be cut every two to three weeks and hedges trimmed twice a year. It will also be available to the disabled and those over 60 who receive housing or council tax benefit.
Council tenants receive the service free, while private tenants and homeowners who meet the criteria are charged between £89 and £189 a year, depending on the size of their gardens.
From April, the council will spend £489,000 on Garden Aid, which is currently used by 90 per cent of council tenants and 20 per cent of those in private homes who qualify.
Cllr Day also revealed that “radical” plans to deal with the city’s housing crisis are to be unveiled in March. It is believed that 38,000 homes, including 16,000 affordable properties, are needed in the city over the next decade.
“We need to look outside the box,” he said. “We’re not going to build 16,000 new homes ourselves so it’s got to be a partnership – we need to work with the private sector and social landlords.”
THE SERVICE IS OUR LIFESAVER
AILEEN Doig, 73, described Garden Aid as “a lifesaver” and welcomed the extension of the scheme.
A council tenant since the mid-1970s, she is eligible because of her age and benefits she receives.
The mum of three, of Drumbrae, said: “We don’t go on holidays so we sit in the garden a lot. I used to do it myself and my husband, William, would cut the hedge. But now I just have pots and my hanging baskets. We’re just on the basic pension, so couldn’t afford a private gardener. The chaps who come round are always very good.”