City council says Government is not telling it to reopen cemeteries

city council says government is not telling it to reopen cemeteries - City council says Government is not telling it to reopen cemeteries

city council says government is not telling it to reopen cemeteries 2 - City council says Government is not telling it to reopen cemeteries

Bristol City Council is refusing to reopen graveyards, claiming the Government is not telling it to do so.

Cemeteries are open for funerals and burials only, with the local authority locking gates to keep out residents who want to lay flowers and pay their respects to loved ones for fear that some people will go there to exercise during lockdown.

The council insists guidance from Westminster has not changed since it shut its cemeteries earlier this month, despite Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick saying during the Government’s daily coronavirus briefing on Saturday that they should be reopened.

Mr Jenrick said he had instructed local authorities to keep graveyards open during the coronavirus pandemic.

The government minister said: “For clarity, funerals can go ahead with close family present.

“I’m also asking councils to keep open or indeed to reopen cemeteries and graveyards for people to make that private visit and seek solace at the grave of someone you’ve loved or to privately lay flowers.”

But the city council insists the Government’s instructions have not changed and that it is continuing to follow them by using cemeteries for their “primary purpose” while keeping them closed to the wider public.

A spokesperson said: “In line with government guidance, we are ensuring that crematoriums and cemeteries are used for their primary purpose, which is to hold funerals and burials.

“By keeping these closed to the wider public, bereaved families can safely grieve for loved ones without any further worry, and our staff can operate without increased risk of harm.

“We will keep this decision under review.

“Anyone wishing to exercise, can use public parks and green spaces which are open.”

Earlier this month, the council closed Arnos Vale, Canford, Brislington, Greenbank, Henbury, Ridgeway Park, Shirehampton and South Bristol cemeteries, limited funerals to just 10 mourners and postponed the scattering and burial of ashes.

Gates are kept locked at most of these except when a funeral is taking place.

At Canford and South Bristol crematoriums, which have a large number of services, the gates remain open but only for funerals.

Posters are up at all of the sites telling residents about the closures and asking them to be considerate and not to enter the cemeteries.

On Monday, two days after Mr Jenrick’s comments, city mayor Marvin Rees said he was worried about reopening them because he said residents wanted to go there for their daily exercise.

He said the government guidance was aimed at allowing people to say their “final goodbye” to loved ones.

“That is certainly significantly different from cemeteries being open for exercise,” he said on BBC Radio Bristol on Monday.

“If people are using cemeteries for exercise then they are taking away the ability and the opportunity for people to say those goodbyes, so we are going to have to work with government.”

He said he would be on a call with the leaders of the UK’s other core cities later that day “to talk about how we interpret what government is saying”.

“But statements made in Whitehall need to be made real in cities around the country and that is one of the conversations we are having to have with government,” the mayor said.

“If you are looking to support people who want to grieve for their loved ones and attend funerals, how do you do that if they are open for general exercise as well, which is what we are getting a number of comments on – that people want to go there for physical activity?”

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