A Cove man has accused Rushmoor Borough Council (RBC) of “profiteering” through its cemetery charges.

Bill Doody claimed RBC wanted to charge him more than £400 in administration fees to alter his mother’s and grandmother’s graves at Ship Lane Cemetery in Farnborough.

Mr Doody said he contacted the council to ask about adding new inscriptions on each headstone and transferring ownership of one of them.

He claimed the council told him the paperwork would cost £132 for each headstone and £153 for the change of ownership - a total of £417.

Mr Doody said he already expected to pay £300 for the inscriptions and £500 to have both headstones removed and re-installed, bringing the total to around £1,200.

“I consider this to be unfair profiteering by the council, to update two records that I cannot believe will take someone more than two hours to do,” he said.

'Wobble test'

Mr Doody, who grew up in Cove but currently lives in France, said the fees were particularly unfair because the alterations would solve a health and safety issue.

He explained that RBC had deemed his family’s headstones as too loose and had placed a metal band around them, attached to a wooden stake, to secure them.

He argued that, following the fresh inscriptions, both headstones would be re-bedded by the stonemason, so the council would not have to worry about them toppling.

“I noticed no issue with my two headstones, but the council deemed that they did not pass their wobble test,” Mr Doody said.

“By me adding the additional inscriptions, the stonemason will automatically fix the health and safety issue, so what I want to do benefits them too.

“They (RBC) are getting a health and safety issue addressed and I am helping them to have accurate records so they can administer the graves.

“I expected some fees for doing this, but it feels like the council is profiteering off someone’s misery and my value system tells me this is wrong.

“I am not expecting them to reduce their fees but they should be at least made to publicly justify why their charges are so high.”

'Responsibility with families'

Ian Harrison, interim chief executive of RBC, confirmed the fees but said they covered the cost of checking grave details, checking inscriptions, issuing a permit to the stonemason, changing records and producing a new grave deed.

“We set our charges for all such work each year and these are publicly available,” Mr Harrison said.

“The council certainly does not look to try to make a commercial profit from this type of sensitive activity, merely to recover the costs of undertaking such an important public service.

“Ultimately, the ownership and responsibility for any memorials in the cemetery lie with the family.

"The council has a responsibility to make sure that the memorials are safe for all visitors.

“In this case, the safety work that we have carried out is to ensure that the memorials remain in an upright position, with the inscriptions clearly visible.”