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Council admits false claims about cemetery campaigner and could face legal action

COUNCIL officials could face legal action after they admitted making false claims about enquiries a campaigner had made about the poor state of his local cemetery.

Desmond Barr leads the Friends of Hawkhead Cemetery group, in Paisley and has been banned by Renfrewshire Council from directly contacting officials, who claim he has been campaigning too much for improvements to the cemetery.

Following news of the ban being made public, Renfrewshire Council officials wrongly told media outlets Mr Barr had made 57 enquiries over a nine-day period in June this year.

Now they have been forced into an embarrassing climbdown and have acknowledged the enquiries were made over a period of MORE THAN A YEAR. The council has now written a letter of apology to Mr Barr admitting they were wrong to say he had made the enquiries over such a short period.

But Mr Barr has hit back saying: “I am taking legal advice about being banned and the council’s false claims to the media in a bid to justify their outrageous attempts to silence me.

“Council officials wrongly claiming I had sent all those emails in only a nine-day period has damaged my reputation and credibility.

“They make me out as some kind of pest, who was bombarding them with emails and this plainly wasn’t the case.”

One of the founding members of Friends of Hawkhead, Mr Barr had been told by the council’s Head of Operations and Service Development, Gavin Hutton that he was “directing” him to refrain from copying-in officers in any future correspondence and instead should send emails to a generic council mailbox.

Mr Barr was also told that officials he contacts directly would no longer respond to his enquiries about –

* Moss and weeds on paths at Hawkhead Cemetery.

* The grass-cutting schedule.

* Council policy on their inspection of headstones and the headstones being laid flat on the ground by council staff.

* Equipment trials at the cemetery.

The apology letter from the council states: “It appears that unfortunately when providing background to the media queries we received following the Friends of Hawkhead Cemetery Press release, the incorrect period was applied to the correspondence and should have been 57 queries between the period of 17 June 2022 and 26 June 2023.

“I would like to apologise for this error and we are this morning contacting those journalists who had made contact to clarify this point and where that guidance had been reported, we have asked for a correction.”

Mr Barr added: “All I’ve been doing as chairperson of the Friends of Hawkhead group is representing the concerns of the families of people who are buried there and trying to get the council to properly maintain the cemetery.

”I’ve said many times before that if the council would only do what is right and keep the cemetery in a proper state of maintenance and repair, then I wouldn’t need to contact them.”