COUNCIL chiefs have pledged to step up security to stop vandals and thieves desecrating grav-es - but ruled out setting up permanent patrols as being too costly.

The city's environment boss, Councillor Richard Williams, has asked officials to make fast-track improvements and install new fencing at St Mary's Extra Cemetery in Sholing.

As the Daily Echo reported last Saturday, campaign group Grave Issue criticised the city council for axing security guards and for failing to deliver promises of introducing anti-vandal fencing.

Mr Williams says the local authority cannot afford patrols on the site at all times but that it could place them at the graveyard on certain occasions.

He said: "I have asked the bereavement services manager to look at the outstanding issues and bring matters forward, such as installing fences, which can be a deterrent.

"I am more than pleased to meet anyone from Grave Issue to discuss the situation.

"We can't put guards in the cemetery for ever because it is not sustainable economically in the long term.

"But we will try to do our best to solve the problem because issues like vandalism are clearly distressing for relatives, and very sad, to put it mildly.

"There is no way we want to ignore this, and we could look at unannounced types of security patrols if it is a persistent problem."

Grave Issue secretary Tracey Attwood, from Thornill, whose young daughter's grave was targeted by thieves and vandals, said she wanted a meeting with Mr Williams.

Tracey, mother of Jodi-Marie Bennett, who died aged 11 after pioneering throat surgery to remove a facial lesion, said: "We want to see action to back the words because we've had enough empty promises."

She added: "Security fencing is difficult to get over, and so what Mr Williams says is encouraging."