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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 07:47 GMT
Watchdog criticises grave error
The council has paid out thousands in compensation
A council which flattened thousands of gravestones without informing relatives has been criticised by the local government ombudsman.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has been found guilty of maladministration causing injustice.

In October 2002 the council started laying flat more than 11,000 headstones it considered unsafe.

The council called in an independent consultant and agreed to pay compensation to the people affected.

The gravestones were laid flat amid safety fears after a child was killed by an unstable memorial.

But the ombudsman said the move was not justified by the facts and the council's actions predictably affected the owners.

Thousands of pounds have been paid out to the relatives affected, but the council said that the letters it has sent to many potential claimants have been returned because they have moved on without leaving a forwarding address.

The ombudsman added that by reimbursing the cost of the damaged memorials, the council had now remedied the injustice.

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