A 71-year-old widower was distraught to find he had been charged a £160 ‘overtime fee’ for remaining at his deceased wife’s graveside after her burial.
Heartbroken Frank Blades, of Winchester Close, Worksop, stayed behind for just twenty minutes at Hannah Park Cemetery after the funeral but was still issued with the Bassetlaw Council fine, via the funeral directors.
Money means nothing to me- it won’t bring Violet back. But I want to warn others about the issue.Frank Blades
The pensioner had not felt ready to leave the graveside of his wife, Violet, who had passed away suddenly just months after being diagnosed with cancer.
Frank said: “Losing someone you love dearly is devastating enough without being charged for wanting to grieve with your family.
“After the service, I was told that there was no rush and that this was my time. I didn’t feel ready to leave the cemetery immediately so I stayed at Violet’s graveside for a while.
“Because we had been told there was no rush, me and my family also walked round for a bit visiting the graves of relatives.”
When the bill came through from Hopkinson’s Funeral Directors, Frank was shocked to notice the hefty £160 charge on top of his £6,000 burial fee.
He was later told by Hopkinson’s that this was a council fee issued when gravediggers are ‘required to work beyond their contracted hours’.
Frank added: “I was upset when I found out the reason behind the fee because I had been told I could take as much time as I wanted.
“I feel like someone was trying to cash in on what has been a very difficult time for me and my family.
“I didn’t have the energy to challenge the fee because I had just buried my partner, and I paid it without a fuss.
“But a couple of days later, I started to think about it more and I got really angry about it.
“Money means nothing to me- it won’t bring Violet back. But I want to warn others about the issue because when you’ve said goodbye to a loved one this is the last thing you want.”
Frank’s daughter, Cindy Playfoot, said: “It’s disgusting that in your hour of need you can get hit with a fine like this when a funeral is already a massive financial burden.
“The cemetery was not a production line- there was only our family there that day, and we can’t have stayed more than 20 minutes after the burial.
“If one of the gravediggers had approached us and told us they needed to carry on, we would have been fine with it. Instead we were slapped with extra costs.”
Bassetlaw Council confirmed that the fee had been implemented but added that it was Hopkinson’s Funeral Directors who had been charged and not Mr Blades.
Liz Prime, head of neighbourhoods at Bassetlaw District Council, said: “Firstly, we would like to pass on our condolences to Mr Blades and his family.
“To clarify the situation, this fee was charged to Hopkinson’s Funeral Directors due to a late arrival at the cemetery and, to our surprise, they appear to have passed this fee on to Mr Blades.
“When a burial is booked by the funeral director they are asked to provide the time of the church service, along with an arrival time at the cemetery.
“On this occasion the funeral party arrived at the cemetery 45 minutes after the time stated, and in turn, this delayed the process of council staff completing the burial, which took them beyond their contracted hours.
“As a burial authority it is important that we ensure the privacy of every funeral and that no two funerals take place at the same time. The onus is on the respective Funeral Director to ensure that each ceremony runs smoothly and on schedule.
“All funeral firectors were notified of the Council’s new fees and charges well in advance of them being introduced in April. In this time the ‘charge for late cemetery arrival’ has only been enforced twice.
“All our cemeteries are open until 8pm in the summer and the Funeral Directors were not penalised because Mr Blades spent additional time in Hannah Park Cemetery visiting other family graves.”
“We will be contacting both parties to explain the reasons for the charge.”
A spokesman for Hopkinson’s Funeral Directors said: “We incurred a charge of £160 from Bassetlaw District Council due to their gravediggers working beyond their contracted hours when our client wished to visit other family graves following the funeral.
“As with any third-party fee that we pay on behalf of our clients this was included in our final invoice.
“Our funeral director remained at the cemetery with our client until he was ready to return home, for which we did not charge.”
Father Nicholas Spicer, of the Priory Church, said he sympathised with the family and blamed a ‘breakdown in communcation’ between Bassetlaw Council and Hopkinson’s.
He added: “It’s incredibly unfair that Frank was the only person who didn’t know about this fee and yet he was the one who was forced to pay it.”
“What I don’t understand is why the gravediggers couldn’t have notified someone in the cemetery in order to avoid this problem.
“The gravediggers are employed by the council and will have been well aware of this charge.
“They will have had every opportunity to quietly take aside the funeral director, the priest conducting the service or even a member of the family to gently explain the situation.
“Ultimately, steps need to be taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
MP for Bassetlaw John Mann said: “I was very sad to hear of Mr Blades’ loss. He is very welcome to come and speak to me, and I will be very pleased to assist and help sort out this very distressing issue.”