Thursday 19 February 2009
Brian Coleman's Tomb Tax
Last month, I reported that the Cabinet Resources Committee proposed to raise burial charges by 10% for children under 3 years of age. Mike Freer, Leader of the Council, had the grace to acknowledge that this proposal was a mistake. He said that the report had not been signed off by Brian Coleman, the relevant Cabinet Member, and the item was duly withdrawn from the meeting for further consideration.
Perhaps Cllr Coleman hoped that this matter would simply be forgotten because papers for next month’s meeting of the Committee show that only one charge has been slightly reduced and another has actually been increased.
The cost of Class A graves for children under 3 was set to rise by 10%. The council now proposes to raise charges by 6.25% - still considerably in excess of inflation.
The cost of digging a double depth grave was set to rise by 9.17%. This now increases to 10.09%.
You could give Brian Coleman the benefit of the doubt last month and blame officers for not seeking his approval of the proposed increases, but this time there can be no such excuse. The Leader made it quite clear that he wanted these charges looked at again, but all Brian Coleman has done is slightly re-arrange the deckchairs.
It is hard to imagine anything more distressing for a parent than to bury a child, and whilst there is obviously a cost to the Borough in arranging burials, it is very sad that Cllr Coleman (2008/09 allowances - £102,965) cannot show compassion to what must be a relatively small number of families and waive these charges completely or, at the very least, keep them at the current level.
It is generally accepted across the political spectrum that some public services cannot run at a profit or in accordance with the normal ‘rules’ of supply and demand. The burial of children is a service which unquestionably merits public subsidy, just as Brian Coleman will expect the public to subsidise his office if he becomes Mayor of Barnet in May.