Widower's anger at headstone ruling

A PENSIONER who threatened to dig up his wife's headstone rather than succumb to a “ludicrous” proposal to make residents pay for repairs has backed a campaign urging council chiefs to have a change of heart.

A PENSIONER who threatened to dig up his wife's headstone rather than succumb to a “ludicrous” proposal to make residents pay for repairs has backed a campaign urging council chiefs to have a change of heart.

John Ridgeon said he would sooner move the headstone into his back garden than pay to have it fixed as a result of health and safety checks being carried out by St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

The row over gravestones erupted earlier this month when councillors voted against the authority paying anything towards repairs, a move that could leave many vulnerable residents with bills for hundreds of pounds.

A handful of councillors now plan to submit a minority view at a cabinet meeting next month, in a bid to convince members not to rubber stamp the controversial proposals and set up a hardship fund to help people in the community who cannot afford to pay for repairs.


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Mr Ridgeon, of Samuel Street Walk, Bury St Edmunds, was furious after discovering the headstone on his wife, Gwyneth's grave, in the town's Borough Cemetery, had been “desecrated with wooden stakes and tie-wraps”.

The 68-year-old went to check on the memorial, which is only six years old, after he received a letter from the borough council telling him safety checks had revealed the headstone was unstable.

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“When I received the letter from the council, I went to the graveyard expecting to see the headstone had collapsed, but it was perfectly upright,” he said.

“But I was shocked to discover a large wooden stake had been put about three inches in the ground at the rear of the headstone, and there was a tie-wrap around both items attaching a notice to the stake.

“It is not that I can't pay - I'm sure I could get the money together - it's just that I am not prepared to do so.

“I feel so strongly about this, and although I do not think anyone should have to pay for repairs, I fully support what the councillors are trying to do and I hope someone at the cabinet meeting sits up and takes notice.”

Councillor David Nettleton, who will be submitting the minority view along three other members who voted against the plans, said he hoped a portion of the £20,000 already set aside in the council's budget for memorial repairs could be used to help people pay for repairs.

“This is a very sensitive issue. A lot of people, especially the elderly, quite simply have not got the means to pay for these repairs and this puts unnecessary pressure and stress on them,” he said.

A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said no decision would be made until all recommendations had been considered at the cabinet meeting on May 3.

“We have every sympathy for people who have been distressed by the safety review. However, we have a duty to make sure all of our cemeteries are safe and have used nationally-recognised tests to do this,” she said.

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