THE workforce at Fife Council has been "decimated" by COVID and the impact can be seen in our communities with dirty streets, bins not emptied and grass and weeds left to grow.

That's the view of John Rodigan, the authority's environment and building services manager, who said they've struggled to maintain standards due to virus-related absence levels.

But even with the recovery from the pandemic, he told councillors the situation won't improve much as cuts had "gone too far" and it was clear that they "do not have the staff numbers to meet public or councillor expectations".

Mr Rodigan said: "Whilst this year has been particularly challenging, for frontline services it's even more so because we are reliant on manual labour to deliver activities.

"Grounds maintenance, street-cleansing and the collection of domestic waste are totally dependent on all of their staff being at work to maintain standards of service provision.

"This has not been the case.

"Our workforce has been decimated at times by COVID-related illness, shielding, track and trace, isolation and also non-recruitment of seasonal staff for safety reasons."

He continued: "In grounds maintenance, this meant less grass-cutting and no summer bedding displays, these things were highly visible, and in street-cleansing we prioritised litter at the expense of weed removal.

"This created a legacy we're still struggling to recover from and, again, the vegetation on the streets is visible to all.

"In domestic waste, collections were delayed and the frequency of schedules extended last year.

"We're now recovering in all of those areas and services, hopefully the winter period will give us the time to address these legacy issues and come March and April next year, we'll be back to a 'business-as-usual' position and environmental standards will have improved."

Mr Rodigan was speaking at the environment and protective services sub-committee and told councillors that more money and "boots on the ground" were needed to deliver improvements.

He said: "Against a COVID backdrop, these services have also gone through transformational change which has further complicated matters.

"However, we now have fit-for-purpose management structures, new operating models and more stringent quality standards.

"These things will improve all-ward environments next year but with greater transparency and the performance management we've created, we can also see clearly we do not have the staff numbers to meet public and councillor expectations.

"The savings cuts of the last eight years have gone too far and we have to be honest about what can be achieved with the remaining establishment.

"One-third of the grounds maintenance and street-cleansing workforce has been lost since 2013 and we will not get back to the environmental standards of that time without returning the investment.

"Longer, wetter and warmer summers, the reduction in glyphosate weed killer and the growth in new-build housing have all created a perfect storm for these services, so while change is ongoing and organisational and operational efficiency improves, I still know we'll need more boots on the ground to achieve the standards this committee demands."