KIRKLEES Council is under fire over claims it has spent tens of thousand of pounds installing and maintaining CCTV and floodlighting systems on a private Muslim burial ground it is supposed to be investigating.
Mirfield Conservative councillor Martyn Bolt raised questions over the 24hour monitored security system with Council bosses this week, as inquiries continued into the management of the site by Dewsbury South Labour member Coun Abdul Patel and former Batley councillor Ghulam Maniyar.
The two men have organised around 450 burials on the site, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds, under the auspices of the Muslim Mosque Burial Committee.
Despite being called in 10 days ago to explain their position to Kirklees Council chiefs – from whom they lease the land – Coun Patel and Mr Maniyar are not believed to have provided any proof that they are a legitimate trading entity, have paid any taxes on their massive profits, or even possess a burial register.
They have also privately admitted owing Kirklees tens of thousands of pounds in rent arrears after simply ignoring demands for payment.
The men currently pay Kirklees £450 a year for the land adjacent to Dewsbury’s main cemetery – while enjoying the benefits of a monitored security system estimated to cost council taxpayers thousands of pounds a year.
Coun Bolt (pictured right) raised questions after going to familiarise himself with the burial site – as a Cabinet member in the former Conservativerun administration he had fought for Kirklees to keep bereavement services inhouse and not be privatised, a move supported by local funeral directors.
“The first thing I saw was this bespoke CCTV system with a Kirklees sticker on it,” said Coun Bolt.
“I know from previous experience of trying to get CCTV for Mirfield how difficult it is to get, and how expensive.”
Installing one camera costs in the region of £30,000, and a further £5,000 a year to maintain and run.
“I know plenty of private organisations which would like a publiclyfunded CCTV system,” he added. “I also know lots of public bodies who would love to get it, but can’t.”
When quizzed, staff told Coun Bolt that CCTV also covered parts of the main cemetery.
“I want to see if that’s the case, just how useful its coverage is and if it would be more effective sited elsewhere in the cemetery. The fact is it is on private land and its primary role is to serve the Muslim burial ground.”
Embarrassed council executives refused to reveal whether they had paid for the CCTV and floodlights, or who had instigated their installation.
“These matters are currently being investigated,” said a spokesman.
Coun Bolt has also raised concerns over access to the out of hours Kirklees registrar service, currently exclusive to Muslims.
“It’s a basic question of equality,” he said. “There are other faiths that require a prompt burial service but they are excluded from this. If private individuals require this service, why shouldn’t they have access to it?
“Why would the cost of a premium service be borne by all council taxpayers?”
Officers told Coun Bolt, the current Deputy Mayor of Kirklees, that the exclusive registrar service for Muslims is now part of “an ongoing service review”.