Council chiefs are to re-think plans for a massive hike in burial fees.
Kirklees has decided to look at the possibility of imposing only a “slight” increase in fees and to seek cost-savings elsewhere - and this has been branded an “embarrassing climbdown” by a Conservative branch chairman.
An officers’ report recommending significant rises in the prices of burials, cremations and out-of-hours services sparked outrage, particularly among Muslim groups when it came before the council’s cabinet meeting in September.
The proposals included bringing in new fees of as much as £477 for “out of hours” burials and a £99 premium for Friday afternoons.
Religious protestors claimed the new charges discriminated against them as certain faiths, including Muslims and Jews, require their dead are buried as soon as possible and so they cannot be scheduled to cheaper “off peak” times.
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff attended the meeting to voice her opposition to the plan.
Now council leader David Sheard has said the council will consult with representatives of religious groups, funeral directors and other interested parties on alternatives to the proposed increases and bring the matter back with a new report in January or February.
Clr Sheard said he favoured a fee based on the average imposed by councils across West Yorkshire.
He dismissed talk of a U-turn, saying: “We hadn’t made a decision in the first place.”
He said there would have to be some slight increase, but the council would look at other ways to recover the costs.
Mark Eastwood, chairman of Dewsbury County Conservative Association, said: “When Kirklees Council first brought out these proposals I was inundated with complaints from Dewsbury residents incensed at the unfair plans to increase burial charges, particularly the surcharge for Friday afternoons, which I queried with Secretary Of State For Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, to see if the charge was discriminatory.
“The shelving of these plans is an embarrassing climbdown by Kirklees Council and Labour councillors involved with drafting up the initial proposals.”
Local campaigner Sajid Hussain said he felt let down by Kirklees Council’s proposals, but said he was pleased the council had “performed a U-turn” on the proposals.
He said: “We really appreciate the help and support Mark gave in our fight against Kirklees. The fact they have now shelved their plans is a victory for common sense and for all communities who came together to oppose them, although it was a disgrace that councillors thought the increases would be a good idea in the first place.”
Mr Eastwood said he would monitor any future changes and would, if necessary, take it to the highest level of government once again if any future similar proposals came to light.
Naz Parkar, Kirklees Strategic Director, Economy and Infrastructure, said: "I would like to thank all those people who have taken part in the engagement exercise regarding charges for burial and cremation services which closed on the 8th December.
"In keeping with the Cabinet decision on 19th September the proposals contained in that report have not been approved. Having considered some of the early feedback from the engagement process the Cabinet has moved away from the full cost recovery proposal and have asked officers to revise the proposals so that the Cabinet can carefully consider the charges for next year with a view to agreeing a longer term strategy which will be developed following the face to face conversations we will be having with interested individuals and groups in the New Year."