HUNDREDS of elderly or disabled council tenants in East Devon will now have to fork out £50-a-year to have their gardens kept in check after a free service was scrapped. East Devon District Council (EDDC) chiefs reviewed its Individual Garden Maintenance Scheme and opted to introduce a small service charge. The move will save the authority £50,000 which it has vowed to pump into other essential services. The scheme, which previously provided around 600 residents with free basic garden maintenance, is designed to assist its elderly or disabled tenants- in places like Sidmouth and Ottery- cope with their gardens. Paying tenants will now receive up to 10 visits from contractors in the spring and summer months- weather permitting- for roughly £1-a-week. Graham Symington, East Devon housing asset officer, said: We needed to modernise the service and the new charge will go some way towards paying for the schemes running costs. Those who withdraw from the scheme will be given a list of voluntary organisations operating in the area. Councillor Jill Elson, EDDC cabinet member for communities, added: We have to ensure we balance our housing budget and, after consulting with tenants, they thought a small charge was acceptable to upkeep their gardens. This money will be spent on maintaining the many homes we own.