AN ANGERED Thornbury man has criticised Thornbury Town Council for its ‘draconian rules’ concerning charges for plots at the town’s cemetery.
Currently, after 28 days of not living in the town you are classed as non-local, so if you need to purchase a plot at the cemetery you pay double the rate at £924 rather than the rate for local people of £462.
Nigel Osborne’s father-in-law, Ernest Shepherd, had to move to a care home in Wickwar after becoming ill in December 2013.
However, to be able to afford the costs of over £3,000 per month, he had to sell his home in Thornbury which he had owned since starting work at Oldbury Power Station in 1966. His home was sold on Thursday, March 20, 2014, and he sadly died on Thursday, May 1, at the age of 94 – just 42 days later.
Unbeknown to Mr Osborne, who is the director of his own company, was that 28 days after selling his home his father-in-law was no longer classed as a Thornbury resident.
This meant that the family was charged the higher rate for non-local people, despite having lived in the town for nearly 50 years.
Mr Osborne, 63, said: “When they set the rules, nursing homes in Thornbury were more available than they are now.
“We were given three options by a social worker from South Gloucestershire Council whilst he was in hospital, we chose Wickwar because it was the closest one and they were also willing to hold off on payment until his home had been sold.
“However, when my father-in-law died he was 15 days over this 28-day cut-off, we didn’t know about it and our funeral director didn’t know about it.
“We were originally told that we would be charged £462 but when the bill came through it was £926.
“There’s nothing in writing about this rule anywhere and it was made when nursing homes in Thornbury were more available.
“The situation has changed but the council haven’t amended their policy.
“They’ve got it wrong, they ought to amend it.
“They ought to take into consideration that he’s lived here since 1966.
“We were forced into it and had we known about the situation we would have pre-purchased a plot for the local rate.
“The rules need modernising, they’re draconian, we’ve spoken to several councillors about this and many of them seem unsympathetic.
“He was effectively classed as an outsider by the council.”
A spokeswoman for Thornbury Town Council defended the decision, saying that local people help pay for the cemetery’s upkeep.
She said: “The cemetery is for Thornbury people, part of the council taxes residents pay goes towards the upkeep of the cemetery.
“Therefore, anyone who moves away from the town is no longer paying towards that and they are charged the higher fee for non-Thornbury residents.
“It was decided that 28 days be the cut off point and we’ve got to stick to that, this incident is not the first and it definitely won’t be the last.
“It is possible to pre-purchase a plot at the cemetery and then even if you moved away 10 or 20 years down the line it would still be the Thornbury fee.”
l Do you agree with the rules or do you think they should be changed?
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