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Grieving widower charged £160 for standing over wife's grave too long

Frank Blades with a picture of his late wife, Violet

A grieving widower has hit out after incurring a £160 charge - for standing for too long at his wife's grave after her burial.

Heartbroken Frank Blades had not felt ready to leave the graveside of his wife, Violet, who had passed away suddenly just months after being diagnosed with cancer.

The pensioner was told there was "no rush" to leave Hannah Park Cemetery in Worksop and spent just 20 minutes at the cemetery after the burial.

But when Frank received the bill for his late wife's funeral from Hopkinson’s Funeral Directors, he was shocked to notice a hefty £160 charge on top of his £6,000 burial fee.

“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.”

– Frank Blades

After receiving the bill, Frank was later told by Hopkinson’s that this was a council fee issued when gravediggers are ‘required to work beyond their contracted hours’.

Frank's late wife, Violet

“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 the council were 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 Blades

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 directors 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.”

“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.”

– A spokesman for Hopkinson’s Funeral Directors

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.