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Council Changes Ashes Procedure Following Family Complaint

The town council in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, has changed its burial policy after a complaint by a grieving family, the Oxford Times reported recently.

The council previously required the presence of an undertaker during interment but this rule was contested by Christopher Harris, who argued the local authority had no right to make people use professional services when burying a loved one's ashes.

In May 2012, Christopher lost his 79-year-old father who had lived in Woodstock for nearly 40 years. The family had a funeral service and cremation and they intended to have a family service at the Lawns Cemetery in August to bury the deceased's ashes.  However, the family was told they had to use a grave digger at a cost of £90, pay £135-150 for a funeral director, cover a town council interment fee of £105 and pay £74 for the plot.  The bereaved son raised the issue during a town council meeting and even appeared in the clothes of a funeral director to stress that such services were not regulated.

After consulting on the issue with the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, the council decided to drop the requirement for an undertaker to be present at the interment.  Still, the council needs to make sure that other burial requirements such as having the same name on the death certificate and on the casket are satisfied.  To this end, the local authority is considering adding the cost of a staff member being present to future burial charges.