Criticism of festive rise in cemetery charges

Amble West Cemetery
Amble West Cemetery

A grieving family which is burying a loved one today has hit out at the increased charges at a north Northumberland cemetery over the festive period.

Jimmy Douglass, from Amble, died at the age of 80 on Monday, December 22, following a battle with cancer.

The lifelong resident of the seaside town, who worked as a builder and a miner, is being buried at Amble West Cemetery later today.

But his family – widow Margaret and sons Paul, Hughie and Billy – found it ridiculous that there was an additional charge.

The usual £770 cost, which includes burial rights and interment costs, increased by £180, which represents a 50 per cent rise in the interment costs, reduced from a former hike of 100 per cent.

Paul Douglass said: “As a family as a whole, we don’t know how they can justify doubling the fees. It’s not like it’s happening on a bank holiday, it’s a normal working day.

“It’s not a problem for us, it really is the principle and we would like an explanation.”

Amble Town Council, which is responsible for the cemetery, puts it down to staff holidays.

Coun Jane Dargue, chairman of the amenities management committee, said: “It is common practice to increase charges because most contractors and all of our council employees are on leave while the council offices are closed over this period and it incurs extra costs.

“Therefore a 50 per cent increase, which will be £180, is applied only to the interment charge.

“All charges are reviewed annually and comments received are taken into consideration when the charges are reviewed.”

But Mr Douglass said: “If it was a little old lady who couldn’t afford it, she might have to wait an extra two weeks, which would cause a lot of stress.

“No one seems to be able to give us a reason why and I would challenge them to use the extra money to make a donation to the Bobby Robson Foundation – because my father died of cancer.

“It’s not about us being tight, we just think it’s pathetic, it’s wrong. I doubt the gravedigger is getting double pay.

“It seems a cruel, cruel thing – it was upsetting for my mother because she didn’t understand it.”

Alnwick Town Council’s list of charges also includes a 100 per cent surplus between December 24 and January 2.

However, the clerk, Bill Batey, explained that this is only to cover the town council if additional costs are incurred due to bank holidays or staff being on holiday.

For example, a burial took place on Tuesday, December 30, which incurred no extra charge as the cemetery superintendent was working as usual.

Mr Batey added that he cannot recall an occasion in recent years when anyone has been charged extra at this time of year.

The current weekday cost at Alnwick Cemetery, until March 2015, is £430 for burial plot/rights plus £250 or £375 depending on whether it’s a single or double-depth grave.

Other cemeteries in Northumberland, including Berwick, Chevington, Morpeth, Pegswood and Tweedmouth, are all administered by Northumberland County Council and a spokesman said that there is no change to the charges at this time of year.

For weekday burials, the county council charges £625 for an adult grave, single depth, or £672 double depth. while burial rights cost £660 and £690 respectively.