MOVES to allow kerb-stones to be placed around the edges of graves in East Lancashire cemeteries, using a £600 permit system, have been branded a ‘death tax’.

Conservative councillors have accused the council of using the system in an attempt to generate income, but Labour councillors in Rossendale have denied the claim, saying the move is a response to public requests.

They have also insisted kerb-stone permit costs would be in-line with a number of other councils.

Labour members also suggested the Conservatives were attempting to score political points over sensitive cemetery issues which they branded ‘appalling’.

Councillors had been asked to approve the planned introduction of a £595 permit charge for kerb-stones on graves located at all four council-owned cemeteries.

A report said the cost would cover good-quality stonework and grounds maintenance over time.

Currently in Rossendale Council cemeteries, kerb-stones are officially only allowed up to 18 inches in front of a headstone. But some families are installing kerb-stones and fences without any permission, creating risks to visitors and problems for groundsmen, it has been said.

Neighbouring councils do allow kerb-stones but charge for a permit, to ensure good-quality work and cover maintenance costs, a report stated.

Labour's Cllr Adrian Lythgoe, lead member for environment and corporate services, said: "We want to bring our cemeteries in-line with other areas.

"At the moment, people are not allowed to install kerb-stones around the grave.

"However, some people do this anyway, which can create problems with poor work and disappointment that people are not allowed to have kerb-stones.

"This change should make cemeteries tidier in the longer term and will be cost-effective.”

There are currently an estimated 100 existing kerb-stones at Haslingden cemetery, 60 at Whitworth, 50 at Bacup and 60 at Rawtenstall.

Each year, the council receives around 30 requests for kerbs on graves.

Based on annual requests, the permit change could lead to additional income of £17,850, which will contribute towards the increased costs incurred by the council, a council cemetery report stated.

But Tory Cllr David Foxcroft said: "I think it’s a shocking attempt to raise money from the dead.

"We are being asked to approve a death tax where we will be charging people almost £600 for kerb-stones to remember their loved ones.

“There are already about 270 of these in place but no information about how much this is costing the teams [ground-staff]. There is no basis for this. In Burnley, kerb-stone fees are £150. In Blackburn, it is £200.”

He said the authority should not "use the pockets of the bereaved to cover costs incurred by this council’s administration".

Labour's Cllr Andrew Walmsley, lead member for resources, said: “You are being selective in reading the report.

"It also states fees in Bolton, Pendle and Hyndburn are typically around £600."

Cllr Lythgoe added: "To use a sensitive situation like this for political points is very sad. This plan was done with the best possible intentions."

In a vote, the majority of councillors supported introducing the kerb-stone permits. The new arrangements are expected to start in the new year.