Pensioner’s disgust over policy of laying headstones flat

Malcolm Oates has criticised Wakefield Council's policy.
Malcolm Oates has criticised Wakefield Council's policy.

A pensioner with family buried in Wakefield cemeteries said a council policy to lay stones flat if they are deemed unsafe is “disgusting”.

Malcolm Oates, 72, who visits Wakefield Cemetery said it was wrong for the council to move stones without warning and charge the owners £250 to put them back.

Gravestones are being laid flat by the council.

Gravestones are being laid flat by the council.

Mr Oates, who lives on St Aiden’s Walk in Ossett, said: “It makes me so mad that people have to pay hundreds of pounds when they have done nothing wrong.

“The stones are based on a thin later of cement that isn’t fit for purpose. What you need is steel rods to run up though and into the stone.

“It’s clearly not doing the job because they are all falling down.

“A lot people wouldn’t be able to afford £250 and even if they could it’s a lot to play for a small job.”

Mr Oates is originally from Dewsbury, which falls within Kirklees Council, and has family buried in the town’s cemetery. He said he has seen the same practice of stones being laid flat.

Last week the Express reported that tents had been seen camped out in Pontefract Cemetery.

Colin Willock, whose wife in buried in the cemetery, found the tents towards the bottom of the site and said other people who have loved ones buried there had seen people intoxicated with drugs or alcohol.

Glynn Humphries, Wakefield council’s service director for environment and street scene , said: “The council has a duty to protect the health and safety of visitors and staff working in our cemeteries.

“Stonemasons fit and install headstones in cemeteries, and families can pick which stonemason they choose.

“A decision to lay down a memorial and place a tag is taken in cases where it presents an immediate risk.

“We always try to contact the last known owner to let them know and give them a 12 month period to make their memorial permanently safe.

“The council does not make any money from this and we do not make any charge that normally applies for any new memorials that need altering.

“We understand the laying down of a memorial can be upsetting for the loved ones and our staff are trained to provide support and guidance in supporting them to make the memorial safe for everyone.”