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Grieving family fined £200 for funeral that overran by just 14 SECONDS

Mirror logo Mirror 21/3/2019 Peter Craig
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RIP Grieving family fined £200 for funeral that overran by just 14 seconds

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https://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/news/grimsby-news/funeral-crematorium-fines-run-over-2662898 © Grimsby Telegraph WS CAPTION: RIP Grieving family fined £200 for funeral that overran by just 14 seconds RIP FROM SITE: https://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/news/grimsby-news/funeral-crematorium-fines-run-over-2662898

A family was fined £200 (AUD369) when their dad's funeral overran by just 14 seconds - because a mourner on walking sticks took too long to leave the chapel.

It has emerged that North East Lincolnshire Council has imposed penalties for funeral services which go beyond allocated time limits by just seconds.

The revelation, reported by Grimsby Live , has sparked widespread condemnation.

Strict time limits at the crematorium are monitored both at the beginning and the end of services.

Funeral directors receive the fines for running over the alloted time slot - but also for not arriving at the start on time.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Councillor Matthew Patrick defended the charges for over running at Grimsby Crematorium © Grimsby Telegraph WS Councillor Matthew Patrick defended the charges for over running at Grimsby Crematorium

But they say this is not always within their control - with one telling how he had to wait half way down the narrow road with his hearse, for all the mourners to leave the preceding large funeral.

As a result, he was five minutes late in bringing the coffin into the chapel.

Another was one minute late on arrival and received an invoice for the penalty surcharge before he had even managed to get back to his funeral parlour after the service.

The penalty system has "hit every funeral director in North East Lincolnshire" Grimsby Live has been told.

Some incur the cost of the £200 penalty themselves, but others do pass it on to the grieving families.

a large brick building with grass and trees: Critics have voiced their horror over the charges © Grimsby Telegraph WS Critics have voiced their horror over the charges

It is understood the family saying farewell to their father finished the funeral service on time, but had a mourner with walking sticks who took a while to walk out of the chapel after paying their respects.

A fine issued to the funeral director involved said the alloted time had been breached by 14 seconds.

Councillor Keith Brookes, Conservative, said: "It looks as if someone is holding a stopwatch, clicking as soon as someone walks in the chapel and checks the last one to leave."

He said: "I want to make sure we no longer have funerals that penalise families. I have tried to find out how many penalties have been imposed on families that have funeral services at the crematorium, but can't find out.

"I want to know how many there have been. It is hitting people at their most vulnerable of their lives.

"Some funeral directors may absorb the fine but not all of them will. But it seems there is no humanity or sympathy."

File photo © Getty File photo Councillor Brookes said he had been approached by the upset family who had been fined.

He said: "They ran over by 14 seconds before they could shut the door and got a £200 fine.

"Having been to the funeral and trying to get over it they were upset that people came to pay their respects and then realised there was a fine for over running.

a man sitting on a bench: Councillor Keith Brookes wants to remove the fines for families whose funeral services over run at Grimsby Crematorium © Grimsby Telegraph WS Councillor Keith Brookes wants to remove the fines for families whose funeral services over run at Grimsby Crematorium

"They look at the crematorium in the same way as people look at a church and can't believe that someone can be so insensitive to take that approach.

"They struggle to think some one was standing, as if they had a stop watch. It has marred it and that will always remain with them."

Councillor Brookes said: "There are some funeral services at the crematorium which finish before their allocated time. Is North East Lincolnshire Council going to offer a rebate if they finish 10 minutes earlier?"

The allocated time for a funeral service at Grimsby Crematorium from the point of entry to the exit is 40 minutes. It was formerly 30 minutes.

Details on the crematorium website show each booking costs £620.

For funerals which are expected to go on longer, families have the option to book two time slots. A direct cremation, without attendance, costs £442. Chapel extension time costs £200 - the same as the penalty for overrunning.

Simpler service cremations which are held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, have 10 minutes for the service itself, with just five minutes each for entry and exit.

a man wearing a hat: Superintendent of Grimsby's Fishermen's Mission, Tony Jewitt © Grimsby Telegraph WS Superintendent of Grimsby's Fishermen's Mission, Tony Jewitt

North East Lincolnshire Council portfolio holder for environment, transport and energy, Councillor Matthew Patrick  said: "Funeral directors are the ones that orchestrate events and should be respectful and mindful there will be funeral services later in the day.

"Any delay causes delays for later funeral processions which is what we would like to avoid. There is a disincentive for funeral directors to do that and stick to the time slot that is given to them.

"Any overlaps affect everybody. "

Similar systems operate at other crematoria, including Scunthorpe and Alford.

The Alford Crematorium has 45-minute bookings and a similar additional charge of £200 for services which over run.

Superintendent Tony Jewitt, of Grimsby's Fishermen's Mission, has been conducting services at Grimsby Crematorium for more than 10 years.

He said: "Funeral directors do their utmost to run to time. If they are late it is up to each minister to reel it in. It is strict. Even one second over incurs a charge. There is no leeway.

"I think it needs revising. They could do something to support because if a family member, talks and talks, it is right and proper they get charged. You have to stick strictly to the time.

"But running over just by seconds and being charged is ridiculous. A five minute buffer would be adequate. But I think it should be on a case by case basis."

a view of the side of a road: Weelsby Avenue can become congested when a large funeral causes delays for incoming mourners and funeral directors © Grimsby Telegraph WS Weelsby Avenue can become congested when a large funeral causes delays for incoming mourners and funeral directors

The Superintendent, who has conducted services at the crematorium for more than 10 years said: "If it is the family's fault then so be it, as long as they are aware of it from the off. But if it is not their fault, it is not right to charge.

"We should all be bending over backwards to help a family. If there was a situation where everyone was late the last service in the day could be half an hour late and that is not their fault. They expect a service to be on time. There are a lot of factors to consider.

"My bottom line would be the charge for running over seconds should be reviewed and let's have some common sense."

A funeral director said: "When there is a big number at a service you always make sure there is enough time. You often see mourners talking to each other and they will not be aware of the fines there are.

"It is that that causes families to get the fine. If you think it is going to over run then it is best to book an extension. It is the same as the fine (the cost).

"I can understand why it is so rigid because you do not want to be held up at the start. It has to be efficient. But if there is someone who is infirm you need to be sensitive and maybe a warning would be more appropriate."

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