Dacorum Borough Council (23 010 335)

Category : Environment and regulation > Cemeteries and crematoria

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 21 Nov 2023

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about cemetery fees because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council.

The complaint

  1. In short, Mrs X complains about the charges for her late husband’s burial. She says she was not told she would be charged at the non-resident rate (which is charged at three times more than residents pay).

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start an investigation if we believe it is unlikely we would find fault. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  2. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and the Council’s responses.

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What I found

The cemetery fees

  1. The Council sets the Cemeteries fees and charges to cover the cost of providing the service. The fees are based on the applicant’s address. Non – resident (of the brough) fees are nearly triple the cost of resident fees.
  2. There are separate fees for buying the grave space and for the burial/interment.

What happened

  1. In 2018 Mrs X’s late husband, Mr Y, bought a grave space for himself and Mrs X. As they did not live in the borough, they paid at the non - resident rate.
  2. Sadly, this year Mr Y died.
  3. Mrs X complained about being charged burial fees three times the rate that residents are charged. She says she and Mr Y were not told about this charge in 2018.
  4. In response the Council explained that the non-resident fee is correct because their address is not in the Council’s area. It said it could not comment on the information provided in 2018 but would have expected Mrs X to have been made aware of all the charges at the time.


  1. I will not investigate because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council. It is not the role of the Ombudsman to set or change Council policies. The role of the Ombudsman is to check that the Council is applying the policies correctly. In addition, the Ombudsman does not act as an appeal body.
  2. Mrs X lives outside the borough so the Council’s decision is consistent with its policy.
  3. We would not be able to establish what information Mrs X was given in 2018 about the burial charges. Overall, the onus was on her to check the pricing at the time.

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Final decision

  1. I will not investigate because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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