Local team work helps a whole country to reopen cemeteries

Tamworth Borough Councillor Jeremy Oates, with the Council Leader Danny Cook, flagged potential improvements with local MP, Christopher Pincher. Their work saw the Secretary of State amend the law. 

As part of the Government’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic, Members of Parliament voted through regulations to protect the health of the United Kingdom and its citizens. The legislation stated that crematoria and their surrounding burial grounds must close, however the initial government intention was that burial grounds by themselves could stay open. But, this was open to differing legal interpretations once released. Noting this Tamworth Borough Council temporarily closed local cemeteries but sought better guidance from government.

Conservative Councillor Jeremy Oates, along with Councillor Danny Cook, raised their idea to clarify guidance with Tamworth MP Christopher Pincher, who is also the Government’s Minister for Housing. Together with his team at the Ministry for Housing, Communities, Local Government, the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick MP heard the concerns, worked with the Tamworth MP to positively amend the guidance and then announced changes during a daily press briefing at No10 Downing Street. 

The Secretary of State agreed that during this difficult time, it is only right that families have an opportunity to pay their respects to loved ones who have lost their lives. In light of this, the closures guidance were to be updated to make clear that burial grounds and cemeteries may remain open, and that grounds surrounding crematoria may also remain open, including gardens of remembrance.

Social distancing continues to remain in place across the United Kingdom, with only essential journeys being advised, as well as remaining 2m away from one another. Local authorities continue to have the power to close public places should residents break guidelines then access to them could be stopped. 

Jeremy Oates said:

"When I read the news that cemeteries were being closed I knew it was wrong. we are in difficult time and to stop the moaning process of a loved one simply didn't sit right for me. I contacted the council and contacted Christopher Pincher asking them to find a way through this and clarify the situation."

"I am pleased that with our joint hard work we were able to have influence and clarification published allowing the cemeteries to reopen in Tamworth"

Commenting Tamworth Borough Council Leader Danny Cook said:

“Trinity Ward Councillor Jeremy Oates raised genuine improvements that could be made to the law in order to allow our greener spaces to be opened up. I am thankful to Council Officers and our MP, Christopher Pincher, for working with us both and his colleagues in Government to find a resolution for out town. Through this crisis we have always put residents first and we will continue to do so.

“You can find out more what the Borough Council are doing to support residents, businesses and organisations by visiting our dedicated Coronavirus advice page at www.tamworth.gov.uk.”

Adding, Christopher Pincher MP said:

“I know the Secretary of State and officials were keen to ensure parks and cemeteries should remain open. Thank you to Cllr Cook and Cllr Oates for proactively working alongside myself and the Government to get a better result for all. I am pleased Tamworth’s concerns have been responded to.

“Please continue to listen to the advice from Government and the advice from the Council. And remember: Stay at Home, Protect our NHS, Save Lives!”