The Council was presented with the recommendations of the Executive in respect of the motion submitted by Councillor Raja on the burial charges levied at Brookwood Cemetery. The Executive had proposed an amended form of wording for the Motion as follows:
“The Council notes that since Woking Borough Council has taken over Brookwood Cemetery, the initial charges introduced in 1 August 2015 have been frozen and the service provided by the cemetery to the Woking community has conspicuously improved.
Therefore the Council:
i) expresses its appreciation of the frozen charges from 2015 and encourages the board of Brookwood Cemetery to freeze in 2022/3 for 50 years Exclusive Right of Burial, including the establishment of free resident infant graves;
ii) notes the system offering a discount to local taxpayers in both the south and the north cemetery; and
iii) is happy to offer both i) and ii) despite the increasing pressure on Council finances and the need to generate income to fund services.”
Councillor Raja alleged that the report considered by the Executive had contained misleading or incorrect information in respect of the charges made and stated that a review should be undertaken with a comparison with the charges of similar cemeteries in the County. Councillor Raja therefore asked for the motion as originally submitted to be considered by the Council. The recommendations of the Executive therefore fell and the motion as originally submitted became the substantive motion before the Council as follows:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a massive increase in deaths across the country, with 20% more deaths registered from March 2020 to the end of the year than would be expected under pre-pandemic conditions.
Since Woking Borough Council has taken over Brookwood cemetery, the effective costs for burials have gone up, putting further strain on families who’ve lost loved ones in these difficult times. We are not offering local residents discounts on burial charges, a scheme that is common in many local authorities.
Due to the high death toll from COVID and the consideration that many families have lost multiple family members, this council will
i) Reconsider the burial charges it has introduced to the cemetery
ii) Introduce a system offering a discount to local taxpayers, as is common among many parishes.”
Councillor Hussain supported the motion and moved an amendment that a discount should be introduced for residents wishing a plot on the higher ground within the Cemetery. The amendment was seconded by Councillor Aziz.
Councillor Ashall drew the Council’s attention to the report considered by the Executive and noted that the charges were set by the Brookwood Cemetery Company and not Woking Borough Council. The objective of the Executive’s amended wording had been to request that the current charges continued to be kept at the same levels. The Portfolio Holder, Councillor Davis, undertook to raise the points identified with the Brookwood Cemetery Company, noting that the Council had to be realistic about the costs incurred in managing a cemetery.
The Mayor referred to the motion as originally submitted by Councillor Raja and amended with the addition of (iii) that residents be offered a discount on burials within the cemetery. In accordance with Standing Order 10.8 the names of Members voting for and against the motion, as amended, were recorded.
In favour: Councillors T Aziz and M I Raja.
Total in favour: 2
Against: Councillors S Ashall, A Azad, J Brown, K Davis, S Dorsett, G Elson, D Harlow, K Howard, I Johnson, C Kemp and C Rana.
Total against: 11
Present not voting: The Mayor, Councillor Lyons, and Councillors A-M Barker, A Boote, M Bridgeman, W Forster, D Hughes, S Hussain, A Kirby, R Leach, R Mohammed, L Morales, D Roberts, M Whitehand.
Total present not voting: 13
The motion therefore fell by 2 votes in favour to 11 votes against.
That the Motion be not supported.