Family’s anger as council charges £1,100 for memorial bench

Carol Mills is hoping to raise money for a bench in Littlehampton cemetery. Mrs Mills is pictured beside the grave of her husband. Photo by Derek Martin Photography
Carol Mills is hoping to raise money for a bench in Littlehampton cemetery. Mrs Mills is pictured beside the grave of her husband. Photo by Derek Martin Photography

A grieving wife and her family have taken matters into their own hands after the council said a cemetery memorial bench would cost £1,100.

Carol Mills lost her 65-year-old husband Barry to cancer in February, and travels to Littlehampton Cemetery in Horsham Road, Littlehampton two or three times a week to visit his grave.

She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis in her spine, which makes standing painful. Her family asked the council if a bench could be installed, but were told it would cost £1,100 – so a campaign has been launched to raise the money.

Carol, 65, said: “Standing gets painful after about five minutes but that doesn’t stop me. But to have a seat where I could just sit and reminisce would mean the world to me.

“If Barry was here, he would say: ‘you are not paying for that bench, it is down to the council’. I know he would.”

In his career, Barry was contracted by Arun District Council to install and maintain memorial benches around the district.

His daughter Marie Harding set up the online campaign, which has so far raised £100. Click here to donate. The 42-year-old from Wick Street described the price tag as ‘outrageous’: “Dad would be upset to think that mum’s health was suffering from it.

“Her health and happiness would have been the most important thing in the world to him.”

Marie believed benches had been removed from Littlehampton Cemetery and thought it may be due to antisocial behaviour and vandalism.

An Arun spokesman said the price included materials, labour and a plaque and has a small subsidy, despite the council not having a budget for benches. They wished the family ‘every success in reaching their target’.

Regarding the allegations of anti-social behaviour, They added that the new Public Space Protection Order had given the council and police more powers to disperse anti-social groups in the town.

A council spokesman said: “Anti-social behaviour is an extremely important issue for the council.

“Working alongside Sussex Police, partner organisations and our residents we continue to be committed to reducing anti-social behaviour in the district.

“By targeting known problem-areas within designated areas of Littlehampton and Bognor Regis identified in the order, we are tackling the problems we have seen with groups congregating to drink alcohol and intimidating others trying to use these public areas. The power to disperse people causing anti-social behaviour is vital to disrupting and restoring order in areas used by the public.”