A ‘heartless’ £45 charge to live stream funerals for grieving families introduced without the knowledge of Fife Council bosses has been scrapped.
News of the controversial charge caused fury among senior councillors, with Labour co-leader David Ross, who heads the local authority along with David Alexander, saying he was unaware of the fee and immediately called for it to be reversed adding that it was “ridiculous” for the local authority to make the charge.
Families were given the option to live stream funerals in Fife last year, when the first lockdown meant strict limits on the number of people allowed to physically attend.
There had been no charge to families but this week it was revealed a £45 bill would be added.
The controversial charge was highlighted by Mid Scotland and Fife and SNP MSP, Annabelle Ewing, who called for the fee, part of a proposed 8% increase in funeral service costs, to be scrapped.
News of the charge had also been met with fury by the public.
Ian Robertson, chairman of Glenrothes Area Residents Federation (GARF), branded the charge “heartless”.
He added: “The charge is absolutely ridiculous and should be scrapped immediately.
“To hit already grieving families, many who have already struggled to pay for the funeral of a loved one, in the pocket with a further charge is heartless and a scandal.
Commenting on Wednesday regarding the fee, David Barratt, convener of assets and corporate services sub-committee, said the introduction of charges for such services were “never easy decisions to make”.
However 24 hours later he confirmed the charges were to be scrapped and apologised to families who had been affected.
He said: “Webcasting was introduced as a service in June following significant investment to support families and friends unable to attend funerals during pandemic restrictions.
“The decision was made for the service to absorb the costs in full for the rest of the financial year.
“Clearly, the hope had been that restrictions would have been lifted by the new financial year, but when the circumstances that led to the decision to provide the service persist, it is right to extend the measure and to offer live streaming free of charge for as long as restrictions are in place.
“These were operational decisions that only came to my attention this week.
“As convener of the relevant committee, I have asked for this charge to be removed immediately.
“The council has received money to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 restrictions, and I expect the costs associated with this service to be met by that and not from mourning families.
“As the convenor responsible for this service, I am sorry for any confusion and distress this has caused and I will be discussing with council officers and colleagues how this was handled. ”
“I have now confirmed with the service manager that the charges for live streaming have been scrapped.”
Commenting on the u-turn, Co-Leader Councillor Ross, said: “I am pleased that after my intervention last night, common sense has prevailed and the Council won’t now be imposing charges for streaming funeral services.
“I am still trying to get to the bottom of how this happened but I would advise all Council conveners, particularly newly appointed conveners, to check their facts properly before letting something like this go ahead or putting their name to press releases announcing increases in charges like this.”