Thursday 26 August 2021

Update from Barnet Council on my blog "How Capita are running Hendon Cemetery into the ground"

Every so often, a blog gets an absolutely massive response. On the 29th July, I posted the below blog. I cannot recall a similar response, since we launched Friern Barnet People's Library back in April 2012, following the closure by Barnet Council. That brought 400 people out to support us and the end result was that the Library is still there. When I posted the Hendon Cemetery blog, I had people stopping me in M&S, the bar staff and members of the Services club querying it what is going on. I had emails, DM's etc. I wrote to the council. I've been told that if you actually want a sensible response, the best Conservative Councillor to contact is Peter Zinkin. As this is a matter of great importance to me (see below), I contacted Councillor Zinkin.

This is the response I received. I can only commend Councillor Zinkin and the council officers who he worked with on a very thorough response.

This response was comprehensive and displayed a degree of common sense I have not seen too often in replies from members of the administration of Barnet Council. I'm rather hoping that we are seeing a new approach to dealing with the public and local bloggers. An acknowledgement that sensible questions need sensible answers is a big step in the right direction.  

Note from Barnet officers

We have carefully considered the concerns you raise in your blog and we recognise there is justification for these concerns and would wish to apologise to any residents who have been affected on a visit to the Cemetery by the issues which you have raised. The Cemetery service recognises there are a number of actions which need to be taken to improve matters.  


Some actions have already been taken and some are planned over the next few months, please be assured that with staffing levels now back to full complement, colleagues are working to address issues and it is expected that the grass cutting and grounds maintenance regime will be complete by week commencing 16th August 2021.


In relation to the roadway, there are three main areas which have been prioritised for attention. Whilst the service has undertaken reactive repairs to sections of the route, we have been informed by the gas utility company, Cadent, that the large gas main to the crematorium requires replacing. We believe this may require 5 key excavations around the roadway. Consequently, this has required us to review the repairs programme to ensure that there is minimal disruption to Cemetery operations. The work is currently scheduled to take place during the autumn / winter and advance notice will be communicated to all relevant parties.  


In addition, there is a forthcoming project to replace the grounds maintenance sheds. These two projects are likely to impact the road surfaces, which once  both are completed will be assessed to deliver a more permanent repair for affected areas. 


The unsightly trench in area D11 (north east of the Chapel) was necessary due to flooding in this area, this has now been backfilled and made good over the weekend of 1st/2ndAugust 2021.


The grounds maintenance regime is closely managed to rectify outstanding landscaping problems. Unfortunately during the peak grass growing time a significant proportion of the grounds workforce was lost through illness and the legal requirement to isolate under the Covid legislation. 


Additional external resources were identified to support delivery; however due to the specialist nature of the work required and to avoid damage to headstones and memorials, only a limited number of contractors were available. Regretfully timescales were further compounded due to an incident resulting in stolen contractor equipment and the unpredictable weather conditions which has meant that grass has grown at a faster rate than normal.


Sadly, due to the impact of Covid-19 the service has supported an a significantly increased number of burials since March 2020, which has altered the existing appearance of the Cemetery. We appreciate the patience and understanding of all users whilst we work to resolve concerns and restore presentation.


If you would like to discuss any information further please do not hesitate to contact me. 

A meeting was arranged between myself, Councillor Zinkin and Andy Milne, the manager of the service. Andy works for RE which is the Capita/Barnet Council venture that runs cemeteries. We met last Wednesday. We had a half hour chat about the problems and I was given a guided tour. Councillor Zinkin informed me that he was responsible for building a cemetery, in his role as a senior member of a local charity. He agreed what had happened was unacceptable and the council needed to do better. It is clear to me that if the management of the cemetery was not on the coincil radar before, it was now. The harsh political reality is that Conservative administration may well get a bloody nose at next years council election if this is not sorted ASAP.  This affects residents in at least six wards, so it is in the interests of the Council to get it right. Of course we shouldn't need bloggers to write blogs to get things done, but that is the world we live in. 

So how is it looking?

Firstly, from a purely selfish perspective, the worst of the overgrown grass by my parents grave has been strimmed back.

Other graves have also had the overgrown grass cut back and are looking much better.

Although there are still rather unkempt looking areas. I've been assurred that these will get some TLC.

And my biggest concern was the Potholes. This one was huge and was a danger to elderly people who may not have great eyesight. Nearly all have been repaired. Andy explained that a couple hadn't been due to works being done as detailed above

I discussed ways to improve the cemetery. I suggested a friend of the cemetery group be formed. This would ensure that such a mess never happened again. Councillor Zinkin was not averse to this idea. He asked if I'd be prepared to chair this and I'd be more than happy. A subscription to a friends group could fund minor works, such as restoring some of the older graves by public places, who clearly have no one to mind them. No one likes seeing fallen over stones, next to the chapel etc. They could also possibly help with upkeep of graves of children, where parents are struggling to cope. 

Councillor Zinkin also suggested a plot maintenance charge, as an option, where relatives could at least pay to have the grave tended for a period, maybe 25 years. This is an option in the cemetery he is associated with and seems to work well. 

None of this is perfect. Many locals have noted that Westminster Council doesn't have the same problems, Andy Milne explained that they've had far fewer recent burials and smaller site is easier to manage.

So to summarise, the cemetery is not looking as bad as it did in late July. There are some major works that are holding up some maintenance, but it is no longer completely overgrown. The one bit of news that cheered me up was the suggestion that Capita will no longer be responsible for the administration of the Cemetery  and  the staff will TUPE back to an organisation under direct control of the Council. This is not a done deal, but I get the distinct feeling it is seen as the most pragmatic option. We should never have got to this point, but things are improving. I will be keeping a regular eye on the site. As a blogger and as the son of two amazing people buried in the cemetery, it is the least I can do. 

--------------------------------- Here is the original blog -------------------

Yesterday, I went to visit the graves of my parents and grandparenst at Hendon Cemetery. I am sorry t to say that what I saw broke my heart.  The cemetery is in an appalling state. Large swathes have been let run to rack and ruin. As you can see from this picture a large number of graves are completely overgrown.

Trees and vegetation who's roots knock over gravestones as they grow are popping up everywhere.

As for the state of the road which  you need is used to access graves, especially for elderly visitors seeing loved ones, this is absolutely rutted with deep pot holes that can damage a car suspension and tyres. It has become an obstacle course. 

Some of these are deep and botched repairs have lead to rocks being strewn across the whole carriageway. 

Even areas by the side of the road that should be easy to access are completely overgrown.

And large areas have simply been dug up with unsightly mounds of earth left. This is not a freshly dug grave, it is on one of the small roundabouts.

My Father was a war hero, a WWII Bomber pilot, who had been shot down, held POW and excaped.  He died in 1987. I've been visiting the cemetery for four decades to pay my respects. I can no longer bear to do this. Many of his friends, also war heroes are also buried in the cemetery. My maternal Grandfather who served in the trenches of the first world war is also buried here as is my mother, my grandmother, several uncles and aunts. In February, we buried my beloved cousin Theresa, who is six months younger than me and who died of covid. I had to leave as I was too upset at the sight of this awful neglect.

The cemetery used to be lovingly maintanied and visits brough calm and solace. Now I feel enraged to see how badly Barnet Council are treating our deceased loved ones, people who built the City we live in, fought for our freedom and raised us. There is a reason for this neglect. Barnet Council have contracted the running of the cemetery to Capita several years ago. These diabolical contractors see the cemetery only as a cash cow to make money. How do you make money running a cemetery? Raise charges and don't do any maintenance. The disgusting evidence is there for all to see. This is what happens when you put profits before caring for the community. 

If you care about this neglect, please write to your local councillor and tell them. You can find their details here -


Anonymous said...

Went to visit my mums grave last week and was absolutely heartbroken and devastated at the state of the grass. I couldn't even see her grave 😢. It's so disrespectful and unsympathetic. Mum passed away 19 months ago from a prolonged and traumatic illness and it is still very raw. What I saw made me feel sick to the pit of my stomach. Myself and my Father have saved long and hard to purchase her headstone, which is being processed, I will be amazed if the stone masons will even be able to find the grave!
I have been visiting my grandparents (both sides), uncle, niece, and grandparents in laws graves here for 35ish years in total, and this is the worst I have ever seen it. My mum hand picked her grave during her illness (and paid a lot of money for the plot!). She wanted to be close to her parents resting place when her time came and always commented on the peace and tranquility she felt there. This is no longer the case. It looks unloved and barren. Something needs to be done. These are people's loved ones.
I live in Buckinghamshire now and often walk my dog through the cemeteries here, which are immaculate! I do not want to hear the covid excuses, as Buckinghamshire must obviously be immune then!

Anonymous said...

I have been visiting the crematorium for years and now both my parents are buried in our family plot with my Grandparents. What is going on ? The same problem it mr et gets better whoever us in charge of the maintenance of the Grounds especially at the back out of sight. Grass is cut via Strimmer and left across graves and February collects with this to make the area look unkempt . The plots are expensive to purchase and although we know we are responsible for our own plots I mean really ??? Other Cemetries do NOT look this way. Please Barnet Council get your act together. Today on my visit there were several workers just trashing their way through the grounds with strimmers no care nor respect it’s so sad

Anonymous said...

I went to visit the family grave today and was shocked at the height of the grass. It is clear that people are visiting it as it has recently been planted up. I had to spend my time stamping down the grass beating a path to it. I didn't realise I should have brought a machete with me. How sad and disrespectful.
The grave is at the back of the cemetry so very different to those that can be seen on the way in. I get the feeling if it is not in sight it will be ignored .Unfortunately, I am not based in London anymore so can't visit as often as I would like. This cemetry used to be so well kept. Now it is a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

We own a family plot here and have visited for over50 years. To say it’s a disgrace is an understatement!! We constantly have to pull mown grass off the grave and although we clean the stones and replace flowers. The dreaded “strimmers” break up the grave pot inserts etc. We have complained to anyone who is responsible for the upkeep but to no avail “ not interested “ . There are always lots of groundsmen around but obviously they haven’t been shown how to do their job properly with some respect. To us it’s important and should be to the Council if they mind getting all the bad reviews I’ve seen everywhere. We need some help !!

Anonymous said...

The state of the Cemetery is still the same. Is there no one who can sort this out ?? We don’t look forward to visiting our lovely relatives because of the mess and extra work we have to do to tidy up this is not our job please help