Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Council to charge more for wider graves

There are lies, dammed lies, and the Daily Mirror.

The news on Monday that the town council I serve on is to charge more for wider plots in the cemetery must have found its place in the nationals due to it being a slow news day. Houghton Regis's Environment committee met on Monday 23rd, and it took until the following Monday (March 2nd) for the Mirror to report with this story.

So, let's take a look at this Mirror-reported story.
1. "Fat people are to cost more". This is factually incorrect. To use their word, "fat", this can mean many things. But the actual lines on the agenda for which approval was sought, reads "... in the last few months there have been two burials that have required wider graves, thereby encroaching into what, under normal circumstances, would have been the next plot. It is suggested that in such circumstances it would not be unreasonable to charge a higher fee..."

2. "A council is set to charge an extra £75 to bury the obese" ... Hold on the bell, Nelly. Someone at your newspaper cannot add up. What school did you go to? The actual item on the agenda, continues, "... raising the cost of interment from £129 to £194". That is an increase of £65.

3. "It is the first local authority in the country to vary burial fees". Not so. If the Mirror writer had read the whole of the item on the Houghton Regis Town Council Environment Committee agenda, the item states, "...to charge a higher fee, which is believed is the practice at The Vale Cemetery in Luton".

At neighbouring Labour-run Luton, The Vale Cemetery & General Cemetery - published online fees for Interment are currently £360 for an Adult, plus "Additional width fee charged for casket, large coffin or excavating for a walled grave or grave chamber" an extra £120.

4, "It is the first local authority in the country to vary burial fees according to the dead person's weight." Not so. It is not to be a measurement of weight, it is a measurement of the space required for the coffin of the deceased.

5. "Cllr Keith Wakefield, leader of the council's opposition Labour group, condemned the increases as "appaling". Well, I have already shown someone at the Mirror to be not very good at sums, now it is shown that someone there cannot spell, either. Pretty apalling for a publishing organisation. What government were you educated under? Anyway, that is bye-the-bye. In case anyone out there in the real world feels mislead into thinking Keith might be an opposition councillor in Houghton Regis, let me tell you he is not. In Houghton Regis, we wiped Labour out completely at the last set of local elections. We are now 100% Liberal Democrat.

So, what do I think? Well, I'm not on the Environment Committee (yes, that was another Mirror-lie. We don't have a "burial committee" per se) and I am sure that the committee had good reasons for agreeing an increase. The cemetery is almost full. Maybe the next cemetery will decide on a larger standard size. Who knows. However, I am looking very closely at the Liberal Democrat Preamble to the Federal Constitution, and may yet argue against the increase at Full Council.

3 comments:

  1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/4925917/Fat-people-cost-75-more-to-bury.html

    the telegraph mentions it as well. o hope you will speak to them as well.

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  2. I'm well aware how far this mis-construed Mirror story started to get blown up out of all proportion around the world. Has it made snopes.com yet?

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  3. It's bad press & Chinese whispers.

    The Luton & Dunstable Express (previously known, I believe, as the Dunstable on Sunday) weren't at the meeting and decided to interpret a wider plot as a plot for obese people with the words Obese Deceased in their headlines (catchy eh?).

    The Mirror must have read that & put their own spin on it.

    I find it amazing that such a simple issue of charging more for more has been so blown out of proportion.

    No-one said anything about wider plots only being for bigger people! *Anyone* can have a wider plot if their family want one, just as anyone can have a deeper one.

    Most cemeteries charge more for a deeper plot, so why shouldn't they assume to pay more for a wider one? A 1 1/2 width plot actually takes up two plot widths, but Houghton Regis aren't proposing to charge for two plots, just a bit more.

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