Tax on the dead considered “depressing” by body


A HEALTH and safety tax will be imposed on the relatives of the dead, under plans by a Scots council.


Bereaved families are set to face a £100 charge for the maintenance of headstones to ensure the health and safety of visitors.


East Lothian Council is considering the introduction of the “management fee” due to worries about the deteriorating state of its graveyards.


Scotland still has huge regional disparities
Relatives of the deceased could be forced to pay for cemetery maintenance


Vandalism as well as the ravages of time have left 8,000 headstones in a potentially dangerous condition.


Families wanting to buried their loved ones in council cemeteries already pay a one-off £133 “Foundation Fee”.


The charge will rocket to £233 if the “safety” tax is imposed.


The council is required to inspect headstones on a minimum three-year cycle and carry out repairs to any stone found to present a danger of collapse.


However, dilapidated headstones and acts of vandalism are adding to council costs.


The additional tax was proposed in papers presented to the council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, but councillors were told that a further report on the issue would be prepared for a future meeting.


Local SNP councillor Peter MacKenzie said: “We need to regard these headstones as very precious ‘documents in stone’ and many will be gone forever if we do not care for them.


“In Prestongrange churchyard the condition of the gravestones is not good and many have been vandalised and need to be re-stabilised.”


Last year vandals destroyed ten gravestones at the 16th century church, smashing them beyond repair.


Some stones, weighing as much as two tonnes, were pushed over, leaving the church with a huge repair bill of £3,500.


Councillors have endorsed a Burial Ground Strategy for East Lothian, because the county is struggling to find suitable burial space.


There is a need for 13,500 lairs to meet a 50-year demand, but officials estimate that an extra 5,000 will be required – at a cost of almost £5million.


Local Labour councillor Norman Hampshire said: “We are now under real pressure because a number of our cemeteries have very little capacity and people want to be buried in their own community, if that is their desire.”


A taxpayers’ group yesterday condemned East Lothian’s plans as an unwarranted “death tax”.
Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “What a thoroughly depressing state of affairs this is.
“Of course the council have to maintain cemeteries, but they need to find the budget from within their existing revenues rather than sticking a Death Tax on families.
“In addition, the police must come down hard on any vandals and set an example so that the cost to taxpayers of this awful behaviour is minimised.”
The price of a typical funeral in Scotland  is around £3,240, according to Citizens Advice Scotland.
Extras, including memorial, flowers and catering, can cost on average £2,000.