Tuesday 20 January 2009

Tomb Tax Trashed

This article has been updated. See below.

Plans to increase children’s burial charges by 10% were sensationally shelved at last night’s Cabinet Resources Committee, following a campaign led by Barnet Council Watch.

The official reason given by leader Mike Freer is that the report had not been signed off by the appropriate Cabinet member (Brian Coleman) who had asked for the item to be dropped pending further discussions with officers.

Mr Stuart Murray, Director of Planning Housing & Regeneration, told the committee: “We are trying to ensure that…our fees and charges are reasonable….whilst also maximising income for the council in terms of its proper budget management approach.”

Shouldn’t the objective of a Conservative council be to minimise expenditure rather than maximise income? Mr Murray - the man who doesn’t like suburbs - appears to be very off message.

Be that as it may, this is a stunning victory for citizen journalism. Those who scoff and scorn at bloggers will ignore this u-turn by the council at their peril.

Power to the people!

UPDATE: According to the Barnet Times, Cllr Coleman says that officers “failed to alert him” about these charges but the report was made public on 6th January, so why did it take nearly 2 weeks for him to do something?

Now he says that the council will be looking for an inflation linked charge.

But the council is freezing charges for weddings and civil partnerships. If they can afford to do this, why not for children’s funerals too? Could it be because dead children don’t have a vote?


Anonymous said...

Well done! It was a very bad idea, so let's hope it stays buried. A tax on grieving parents was rather despicable.

A better way of "maximising income for the Council" would be not to spend so much in the first place.

Rog T said...


It seems to me that we are doing for free what certain councillors are getting paid a fat cat allowance to do, yet aren't bothering.

Be that as it may, give yourself a big pat on the back for a job well done.

Rog T

Anonymous said...

The comment from 'fat cat' bureaucrat Murray gives the game away. The Council machine is just fixated in wringing out of us residents as much money as it can in order to pay the inflated salaries of the staff and hideous expenses of the Councillors.

To maximise income you hit the most 'price inelastic' charges, the ones that people are least likely to be able to avoid. Therefore it flows that they hit hard people who need to park and those who in grief are looking to bury their loved ones. The don't increase marriage fees as people can go elsewhere and plan in advance.

This is always how these technocratic regimes work. It is what our elected representatives are supposed to be there for, to inject some humanity into this process and stop the machine relentlessly searching 'maximum income' irrelevant of the costs.

I come back to my previous charge that the current Councillors appear to be bone idle lazy in discharging their role of keeping a close eye on the workings of the Council. Sure they are fast to issue press releases, be pictured and videoed here and there and help some bolshy resident push their way up the queue. But when it comes to the core Council functions they feel it is for the Officers and Councillors can't / shouldn't get involved.

If that is what they feel then are really not exercising any responsibility at all. They should take, maybe £3,000 a year basic allowance and cabinet members, maybe, award themselves £4,000 a year.

In my opinion, Councillors have got to realise they cannot get a grip of this Council without looking under the hood. Sitting in rooms reading reports gives you a very poor idea. If Terry Leahy, Tesco CEO, can spend two days a week on the shop floor talking to staff, observing customers, really seeing what is happening then so can Cabinet members. Leahy isn't content to rely on bland assurances from his senior management as to what is going on, nor should Barnet's Councillors.