Hammersmith and Fulham Council executed an extraordinary ‘panic U-turn’ after comprehensive notes were found in the February 3 cabinet meeting agenda detailing proposals to bring in charges for parents burying their dead children.
The council was looking into charging grieving parents £186 for the burial of still-born and infants up to 30 days, and £846 for children up to 12 years.
Historically, the council have not charged for the burial of infants and children up to the age of 16.
However, last week, a council spokesperson said: “The new charges, for burying infants, children and adults, were a potential idea that should never have got into the meeting notes. We don’t know how they got in there. It was an accident. We do not know how this happened as we have no intention of bringing the charges.”
Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham opposition Labour Group, Stephen Cowan, said: “It beggars belief that Conservative councillors put it in a report, signed it off and presented it as a new policy before we managed to expose what they were doing and get them to make this panicked U-turn. It is sickening that anyone actually thought they could make money out of such a horrific tragedy.”
Mr Cowan said the proposal had been ‘tucked away in an obscure appendix’ in the papers.
Ulrike Bulle, a children’s author from Hammersmith said: “I would like to hear an apology from the Conservative councillors who thought it was okay to try and make some money out of what is any parent’s worst nightmare.
“I am glad they have dropped this. They should never have proposed such a disgusting new charge in the first place.”
Councillor Greg Smith, deputy leader of the council, said in a statement: “We have looked at what other boroughs are doing, as part of the budget setting process, and considered bringing in a fee. However, we know how important this service is and we are not going to bring in a fee for child burials. We do not currently charge any fees for children’s burials and, in doing so, are heavily subsidising the cemetery service.”
In the same documents it is proposed to slash fees for new grants for sex shops and cinemas by 70 per cent, from £16,668 down to £4,947. The annual licence new grant fees for sex entertainment venues were proposed to be cut by 58 per cent from £16,668 to £6, 983.
The council said this is due to a court ruling made last year that said local authorities must follow a set formula for setting fees for sex establishment licences, which only takes into account the administrative costs involved in processing licences.