Council changes ashes policy after bereaved family complains

Charles Cowling

 

 

From today’s Oxford Mail:

A TOWN council has been forced to change its policy on interring ashes after a bereaved family took the authority to task.

Christopher Harris objected to Woodstock Town Council’s rule that said people must employ the services of a funeral director to oversee the interment of a loved one’s ashes.

Mr Harris’s father Richard, 79, who had lived in Woodstock for almost 40 years, died in May this year.

The family held a funeral service and cremation in June, and planned a small family service at Lawns Cemetery, Green Lane, Woodstock, for interment of the ashes this month.

But the family was told they would need to employ a grave digger and funeral director to oversee the interment.

When they obtained a quote they told it would cost £90 for a grave digger, £74 for the plot, a £105 town council interment fee, and between £135 and £150 for a funeral director.

Mr Harris decided to challenge the council as he did not believe a funeral director was needed. He said: “The council rule imposed people to use a professional firm, but they don’t have that right at all.”

Mr Harris raised the issue at a town council meeting. He even dressed as a funeral director at the meeting to make the point funeral directors are not regulated and anyone can be one.

Last night Woodstock’s mayor Brian Yoxall accepted the council’s policy was wrong and has agreed to change it.

He said: “The point about funeral directors being present is something which we firmly believed at the time to be correct policy.

“It has always been our policy to have an undertaker present and this was the first time case we had come across for a do it yourself funeral.

“That’s why we took the position we did.

“We have since taken advice about that subject and have now accepted it isn’t necessary for funeral directors to be present. “We are not insisting a funeral director has to be present now, but we are insisting a member of staff satisfies him or herself that arrangements are satisfactory.”

He said the council would look at including the cost of a staff member being present in the burial fee in future.

Mr Yoxall said the council has now been told by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management that was unnecessary for a funeral director to be present.

But the council must satisfy itself of the checks it is required to legally make as a burial authority, such as checking the name on the death certificate matches that on the casket. Mr Yoxall said he understood the requirement for a funeral director had always been the council’s policy. He could not say how many people had been affected by it.

Elsewhere in the county there is a mixed policy. Oxford City Council, which look after four cemeteries, says at the very least a grave digger, who is employed by the council, must be present to confirm the name on the death certificate and casket match.

In Bicester, the town council requires families to employ a funeral director.

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Teresa EvansCH ak 'The Prat In The Hat'Charles CowlingAndrew HicksonJonathan Recent comment authors

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Teresa Evans
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Following Christopher Harris’s awful experiences with WTC, I think it becomes very necessary to establish exactly how many local authorities in England & Wales is imposing the same unnecessary demands on other people.

Might I put in a request to everyone reading this blog to establish what the policy is at the local authority for the district where they each live and report their findings on here, or alternatively email me at goodevans06@aol.com please? Advanced thanks.

Teresa Evans
Guest

Chris when discussing the ICCM Charter for the Bereaved you say that, “…them not adopting those principles which cost them nothing, is shameful”. Whilst I totally agree that it is shameful, it also shows ignorance and a lack of understanding of emotional needs and how they could and should be met by public services. Burial authorities now refer to what they provide as bereavement services, but rarely meet those who are bereaved before a funeral has taken place. Even if they did have personal involvement before funerals take place, staff would still not understand the psychodynamics of bereavement and how… Read more »

Teresa Evans
Guest

Hats off to you for what you have achieved Chris! I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. The pain that you have experienced will not only reveal to people what their legal rights are, but prevent many of them from being taken advantage of at what will often be the most vulnerable time in their lives. When discussing reimbursing those that have been forced to hire undertakers in the past, Andrew Hickson says, “Why not see your successful challenge as a positive move forward rather than a reason to stir further emotion from the past?”. I… Read more »

CH ak 'The Prat In The Hat'
Guest
CH ak 'The Prat In The Hat'

Teresa – many thanks for your kind supportive words. Like John Rambo, I was pushed… Has the erudite Mayor got himself in a muddle here? Death certificate v Certificate of Cremation… One is issued by a Registry Office, the other accompanies the cremated remains from the crematorium. Or does the confusion lay with me??? Why in the name of all things holy would I need to provide sight of the death certificate to the Council to inter??? If the Mayor says that’s what I need then that is what I shall take… Perhaps someone can create a template letter for… Read more »

Andrew Hickson
Guest

Yes Jonathan, agreed. Rules is rules and boxes must be ticked. I’ve often wondered quite why there is this checking procedure everywhere except at the undertaker’s premises. There is absolutely nothing that ensures the name on the coffin matches the person within it, and that is surely the most important place for the check to be made? There is a cemetery not far from me; the person in charge of it walks past my office on his way to work. If I’ve got a funeral in the next couple of days at the cemetery, he asks if he can check… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

“But the council must satisfy itself of the checks it is required to legally make as a burial authority, such as checking the name on the death certificate matches that on the casket.” Bearing in mind that this blog is about funerals and not local councils, can I backtrack to ask if anyone understands the reason to have a cremation certificate (assuming that’s what’s meant by ‘death certificate’ which, as any registrar will tell you, does not exist by that name) and a label, randomly or otherwise stuck onto an urn, in order to legally authorize a burial of cremated… Read more »

Andrew Hickson
Guest

Not knowing the full story, it would be wrong of me to say if I’d expect an apology. There are two sides to everything. Councils can be awkward, illogical, old fashioned and a whole host of other things. A client of mine went through (I guess) much the same as you regarding a memorial in our local cemetery. After 4 months of wrangling she eventually got her way. When the memorial was fixed, she wrote to the paper and thanked the council for allowing her to have it. There are now a couple of similar memorials in the cemetery, and… Read more »

CH
Guest
CH

I acknowledge what you say…however…the Council had over one month to look into this and chose not to. One phone call to the ICCM (of which they are members!) and they would have known better. I told WTC on numerous occasions the law surrounding this issue and they chose to ignore it and me. Failing the crazy notion of the law, I asked them to explain why I needed to hire someone to watch (from 20 metres away) my brother and I lower a ‘wooden slightly-larger-than-shoe-box’ casket into an 18 cubic inch hole and get paid £5 per second for… Read more »

CH
Guest
CH

“I am damn sure there are more people aware of there rights now than before this story.”

Apologies. I meant “their rights” not “there rights”.

CH
Guest
CH

Maybe if you had encountered the arrogance of the Council, you may feel the same. This to me is similar to the whole ‘PPI’ mis-selling by the banks. I told them and they ignored me, putting my family through significant distress in the process. Why shouldn’t those whom have spent out UNNECESSARILY be reimbursed accordingly? I don’t want a penny from the Council – hell, if this was about money and effort I could have spent the 150+ hours I have dedicated to this over recent weeks much better and just paid the money. It was never about the money.… Read more »

Andrew Hickson
Guest

“I sincerely hope others who have been forced to use an undertaker by Woodstock Town Council now seek some financial means of redress for the unnecessary expenditure they have been put to.” … Who do you suggest foots the bill for this, if it happens? The good folk of Woodstock, via their council tax? Sorry though I am that you have been through this, I can’t help thinking that wishing this sort of thing is not really constructive. The sad fact is that the vast majority of people choose to use an undertaker. Take that as gospel from an undertaker… Read more »

CH
Guest
CH

You may say that but I couldn’t possibly comment!!!! 😉

Vale
Guest
Vale

Well, after all the harsh things that have been said about the Councillors, they have actually rolled with the stunt (not hard, people get up to far worse things in council chambers) listened, taken advice and changed the policy as a result. Hats off to them I say.

CH
Guest
CH

As I have previously posted the Council knew before my ‘top hat theatrics’ that they had little choice but to change their rules. The Mayor was more willing to speak to the journalist on this piece than he has been to speak to me. Should the Council overhaul its Rules & Regs it will undoubtedly to do without discussing them with people knowledgeable in these matters. You will all note that there still remains NO apology to either me or my family for the way we have been treated. I sincerely hope others who have been forced to use an… Read more »