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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 10:26 GMT
Apology for graves row families
Relatives arrived to find their headstones pushed over
A councillor has apologised to families whose dead relatives' grave stones were knocked over as part of efforts to make them safe.

But she also accused the media and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) of being partly to blame for the row.

The practice angered people who arrived at cemeteries to find their loved ones' headstones lying on the floor in March 2003.

Families thought they had been vandalised but were upset when told they had been flattened by Stockport Council.

The authority decided to use a push test to see if they were safe and some headstones were damaged in the process.

The council knocked down thousands of headstones during the process.

A public inquiry into the scandal heard evidence from Councillor Ingrid Shaw, who as head of culture and leisure, was responsible for graveyards in the borough.

40,000 repair bill

She told the hearing on Tuesday evening she was sorry for the distress caused but claimed the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local media should share the blame.

She criticised the HSE for telling the council to speed up its assessment of the safety of graves and accused the media of not properly publicising the council's intentions.

Councillor Shaw also said she knew nothing about a request from the graves department the previous year for an extra 40,000 to deal with dangerous headstones.

That request was turned down by her department.

It is not yet known how the bill for repairing the gravestones will be paid, but estimates have been made at 100 for each headstone.

Graves of children aged under 16 are already being put up at the council's own expense.

The full report of the inquiry is due on 3 December.

Council evidence to graves inquiry
28 Oct 03  |  Manchester
Council criticised in grave row
03 Oct 03  |  Manchester
Inquiry over gravestone row
02 Aug 03  |  Manchester

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