A grieving sister and brother have been left “disappointed” with Potton Town Council, after it did not recognise their late parents as ‘residents’ and quadrupled the burial costs.
Siblings Alison and Rex Baker are the daughter and son of former Potton Town Councillor and Bedfordshire County Council chair, Richard Baker BEM, and his wife, Jean.
Richard and Jean had lived in Potton since 1960, moving to Kent in 2010, and in 1995 the couple paid £32 to purchase a cremated remains plot in Potton Cemetery.
The couple both died last year, Jean at 95 and Richard at 92. However, throughout the process of arranging the ‘celebration of life’ ceremony, Alison claims the siblings felt hurt, and that her parents’ “huge” contribution to the town had been snubbed.
Alison claimed: “Because my parents had moved away from Potton - as there are no care homes in the town - they were classed as ‘non residents’, and the cost of a headstone placement and internment for both ashes was quadrupled; the total came to £ 2,328.
“The Town Council even suggested mixing their ashes into one pot to make it cheaper - disgusting!
“Mum was the lady chair of the Conservatives for 25 years and the Mother’s Union for 20 and Dad was a retained firefighter for 24 years.
“Friends of my Mum and Dad will have no idea that future decisions they make about their welfare may impact their burial rights - if they move out of town to a care home the ‘non resident’ fee will apply to them!
“I truly hope this starts a massive campaign and shame on Potton Town Council.”
A Potton Town Council spokesman, said: “Potton Town Council treats all former residents equally, irrespective of who or what they are/were.
“The town council has very clear rules and regulations on non-residents, who choose to move away from the town of their own accord.
“The town council is aware of what Mr Richard Gilbert Baker and Mrs Jean Margaret Baker have done in the past and this includes Mr Richard Baker being a Potton Town Councillor for many years.
“The following is included in the September 2014 minutes; The Town Council had received correspondence from Mr R Baker about non-residency surcharge for Potton Cemetery and whether the council would consider waiving the surcharge for Mr and Mrs Baker in recognition of previous service to Potton...It was resolved that the town council wouldn’t waive the non-residency surcharge.”
“With regards to charging non-residents extra, our arrangements are not different to many other town and parish councils.
“A high proportion of town and parish councils charge non-residents extra.
“The mixing of ashes wasn’t a town council suggestion, this was suggested by the undertaker.
“Finally, the town council has a duty to maintain Potton Cemetery in perpetuity.”
However, Alison argued that, for example, Biggleswade Town Council only doubles its fees when anyone has lived outside Biggleswade for ten years or more and Sandy Town Council states: “It is the owner’s responsibility to keep the council informed of any change of address.
“If after purchase of Exclusive Rights of Burial, the purchaser moves out of the parish, this will not affect these rights.”
She also claimed that it was her father who contacted the council in 2014; “But I don’t think he knew about the size of non-residency fees; it was just the principle, he wanted to be classed as a resident.”