Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mourning and Memorials

I spent a great deal of time today in discussions about the best way to move forward on planned changes in our cemeteries across the Borough. When I chaired the scrutiny review into managing memorials in the cemeteries it became obvious that for many reasons over the years the council policy of having only a headstone and vase on a grave had not been kept to. As a result the graves which only had grass weren't looking tidy because the maintenance was so difficult going round other graves with lots of objects on. Some people put breakable things on and then got upset when they were damaged either by other visitors or by the weather. Some put soft toys on and the squirrels played with them and moved them, upsetting for everyone. The committee heard from loads of people, agonised for hours over what to do and came up with a set of recommendations. The cabinet accepted them and now the council staff are trying to put them into practice.
Most of the recommendations have gone through without any problem. The safety of existing headstones has been checked and unsafe ones have been secured. The flower beds are beautiful. The railings round the Garden of st Francis, where babies who die before they reach 1 month old are buried, look lovely as does the planting in there. Now we're up to the really hard bit - most people want the grass replaced with fresh turf and the area tidied up, and would like a part of the grave to be available for personalisation - planting, placing personal items and so on. But for some families that's just not enough - they want the whole grave area to be personal to them. Trying to find a way to please both groups of families is proving to be a task of Herculean proportions and is going to take a very long time to resolve. Yesterday we did manage to identify an area where everyone is in favour of, or at least accepting of, the new council policy and would like us to just get on with it. So that part can be done while we continue discussion with the others. I foresee a long time on this yet, but it's well worth doing when it's such a sensitive area.

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