12th Aug, 2020

Secret decision lets council charge mourning Solihull families to livestream funerals

John Carlon 31st Jul, 2020 Updated: 31st Jul, 2020

SOLIHULL Council has defended a decision taken by a cabinet member to charge grieving families for webcasting funeral services.

Mourners will have to pay £40 to stream funeral services to their loved ones from the council’s crematoria.

Attendance numbers have been capped at Woodlands and Robin Hood cemeteries since the start of the pandemic.

Facilities for livestreaming funeral services were set up at the crematoria in March, but the council now intends to charge up to £115 for families to watch and retain footage.

Solihull Council’s assistant director of communities, Alison McGrory, recommended the borough bring in charges ahead of a communities committee meeting on Tuesday (July 29.)

A decision by the Conservative cabinet member for communities, Coun Alison Rolf, was set to be made in secret, but after media pressure from the Observer and the Birmingham Mail, the council published its fees schedule.

It was suggested the press should not see Ms McGrory’s report owing to details ‘relating to the business affairs of the authority’.

A spokesman for Solihull Council said: “The council introduced webcasting at the beginning of lockdown, recognising that it would be difficult for people not to attend the funerals of their loved ones.

“On compassionate grounds, no charge was made to access a webcast of a funeral whilst restrictions were in place. However as the lockdown has eased we have reviewed this position. The intention is not to make a profit, but simply to recover the unexpected costs of the installation of webcasting equipment. In the event that we return to lockdown restrictions we will review the charging arrangements, which are not due to come in until September 1.”

The council has kept a restriction of a maximum of 20 mourners at funeral services for the time being.

Under the fees plan, a webcast will cost £40, access to recorded footage will cost £60 and a commemorative film of a funeral will cost £55.

Despite the new charges, families will still be able to film a service via alternative livestreams, the council stated: “Mourners are welcome to use mobile phones to film and share funeral services with those not able to attend, using media platforms such as Facebook Live provided they have permission from the funeral applicant and the officiant/minister.”

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