People involved in the sombre business of burials and funerals have cast doubt on Kirklees Council’s bereavement plans.
With delays of up to a month for cremations, the council revealed last week that it intends to launch weekend burials and cremations to try and boost availability.
The proposal comes after its initial plan to charge a premium for Friday afternoon services sparked outrage from Muslim burial groups.
That idea has now been shelved following a hastily arranged online consultation.
But Huddersfield based funeral directors and a religious leader have said they were not consulted and they have serious concerns about the practicalities of the revised plan – which include fining families whose services run late and offering 30-minute burials.
Paul McNulty, from McNulty Funeral Service on New North Parade in Huddersfield town centre, said plans to standardise weekday burial times and hold burials at weekends would clash with churches’ other commitments and the plan to modernise the whole system by making funeral parlours book online would be full of pitfalls.
“The burials plan won’t work,” Mr McNulty said.
“There’s no other council in the country that can do online bookings as we have to be able to speak to someone to find out about digs, monuments and other arrangements.
“They should have discussed it with us.
“They’re saying they are going to offer weekend services but it’s going to be difficult as the clergy are tied up at the weekends doing their own services, baptisms and weddings.
“It’s going to be like pushing water up hill.
“People are already having to wait a month for cremations, which is quite distressing for families.
“They’re going to fine you if you’re early and fine you if you’re late.
“If you’ve got 150 people attending, you can’t say to people, you’ve only got 30 minutes and then you’ve got to get out of the cemetery.
“Every funeral director round here is a bit miffed with it. I’ve asked to have discussions and I’m still waiting for a reply.”
Gavin Screen of DJ Screen and Sons at Fartown, said there would be particular issues with West Indian burials.
A West Indian tradition involves mourners spending between 45 minutes to an hour burying the coffin themselves.
“You can be at the cemetery longer than you’re in church,” said Mr Screen.
“With the West Indian ones you just have to go with the flow – nine out of 10 run over.”
He added: “Every funeral director I know hasn’t heard about this plan.
“I would like the people who have made this decision to come out with us and see what it’s like.
“I’m sure they’ll say we have to adapt but it’s not that simple – we have to have flexibility.
“I haven’t spoken to one person who thinks this new plan will work.”
Meanwhile, Canon Ian Smith of the Parish of the Holy Redeemer, including St Patrick’s Church at New North Road, also raised concerns.
Having read the council’s plan online, he told the Examiner neither he, the Catholic Dean of Huddersfield, nor his colleague Provost John Aveyard, the Catholic Dean of Dewsbury, had been consulted.
He commented: “I think this is a significant omission, considering the number of Catholic funerals that take place in Kirklees.”
He continued: “The document seems to infer that there will be set times for the three daily weekday burials in North Kirklees and South Kirklees.
“Flexibility of time is needed for all clergy, as we have other responsibilities and demands on our time.
“Whilst I understand that Saturday and Sunday may be suitable for Muslim people, these days are of no use to us who are Catholics and I would suspect that there are very few Christian ministers who would want or be able to conduct funerals on a Sunday.
“I am concerned about the increasing amount of time the bereaved are having to wait for a funeral.
“The time between a death and a funeral is a very difficult time for the bereaved and it needs to be as short as possible.
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“When I first came to Huddersfield 21 years ago, funerals were organised to take place within a week or just over.
“Now it can be up to a month before a funeral can take place, a period that is far too long.
“These proposals will do nothing to address this problem.
“By comparison, my auntie died in Chorley in Lancashire on Friday, February 9; her funeral took place in the municipal cemetery the following Friday.”
Kirklees Council’s cabinet are set to discuss the plan, and potentially rubber stamp it, at its meeting tomorrow.