Funeral service stream: Councillors didn’t know of £45 charge to grieving families
Fife Council’s furious co-leader has ordered a controversial decision to charge grieving families for a live stream of funeral services to be reversed immediately.
David Ross’ intervention came just hours after we revealed the local authority was bringing in a £45 charge starting next month.
The service was launched last May after numbers allowed to attend funerals were severely restricted by the pandemic - and at no cost to families.
It is understood several prominent councillors, including the Labour co-leader, were completely unaware of the plans to start charging - and they have also reacted with shock.
The decision also came in for strong condemnation on comments posted to the Fife Free Press’ Facebook page - many branded it “disgusting” and “disgraceful.”
Now, Mr Ross has hit out.
In a strong statement issued last night, he said: “I understand it is being reported that the Council is going to start charging for the streaming of funerals.
“This is the first I have heard of it, and if someone has made this decision then it needs to be reversed immediately.
"At a time when there are tight restrictions on attendance at funerals with all the anguish this causes to those who have lost loved ones, it is ridiculous to think the Council should start charging for the online streaming of services which will at least let more people participate in a small way.”He said he had taken it up with Steve Grimmond, chief executive of Fife Council, “as a matter of urgency."
The issue was first highlighted by Annabelle Ewing, SNP MSP for mid-Scotland and Fife.
She revealed the £45 charge - subsequently confirmed by the local authority - as part of a proposed 8% rise in funeral service fees.
She also urged the council to re-think, stating: “The ability for friends and relatives to attend a service ‘virtually’ through a live webcast – or, indeed to ‘catch up’ later – has helped to make that restriction a little more tolerable.
“It is a function that in these times should not be offered as an optional extra but a facility that is available for everyone.”
The matter was then raised by the Fife Free Press with the council.
Alan Paul, senior officer, and Councillor David Barratt, convener of assets and corporate services sub committee, issued near identical statements to the Press confirming the charges - and the reasons why they were being introduced.
Mr Barratt, SNP member for Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay, said: “Introducing charges for the services we provide are never easy decisions to make. Our employees in bereavement services have worked hard over the last year to provide the best service possible under the most challenging of circumstances, supporting bereaved families.
“However, we have to invest if we are to continue to improve the services we provide and look after the cemeteries in our care.
“We wouldn’t object, if families wish to film funeral services providing filming was undertaken with the agreement of mourners.
“We will continue to work closely with funeral directors to make sure that any families experiencing difficulties with the cost of a funeral are supported.”