THE cost of cremating a baby or child has become the subject of political shenanigans at Milton Keynes Council.
According to official budget papers the £120 fee is set to soar by 40 per cent to £180.
The document was this week made public by Liberal Democrat Councillor Andy Maric, whose scathing press release was clumsily entitled ‘Tories target dead children’.
The news immediately incurred the wrath of city churches, which say it is unfair to hit grieving parents when they are at their most vulnerable.
But just as quickly, the Tories DENIED the increase would go ahead, saying it was “a mistake” that it ever appeared in budget proposal documents.
Cabinet member with responsibility for such fees, Peter Geary, blamed council officers for first mooting the suggestion to the budget review panel of councillors.
He said the panel, which included Mr Maric, voted in approval. But he concedes the item may have been “hidden” under a general move to bring all services up to market rate.
“When I spotted the panel had approved it, I asked for it to be removed. It is appalling that we should ask parents for more money at such a distressing time,” he said.
Last year the council made a total loss of £1,000 on the 36 child funerals held at Crownhill Crematorium. This, insists Mr Geary, is a loss the council is happy to bear.
But why the increase still appears in formal budget proposal papers today remains a mystery. Mr Geary insists it is due to clerical error while Mr Maric accuses the Tories of being devious to protect their reputation.
He said: “I am fuming. The Tories are clearly lying. It is completely immoral and insensitive of them.”
Mr Geary has now promised the cost of burying or cremating a child will NOT rise – and has hit out at the LibDems for “capitalising” upon tragedy.
Meanwhile furious Mr Maric has called for an internal inquiry. He has launched an online petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/council-secrets demanding other “secrets” be exposed.