A legal wrangle over the upkeep of a graveyard has led to a stand off between councils as they argue over a bill running into thousands.
Families in Peterlee could bury their loved ones in Horden’s Thorpe Road Cemetery before the town created its own in 1992.
A that point, Horden Parish Council says Peterlee Town Council agreed to make an annual payment towards the site for the ongoing cost of managing the plots of those from the neighbouring town.
It was paid up until last year, when Horden was told by Peterlee it would no longer continue with what it considered “goodwill payments”.
Horden called for a rethink, but was told it was following legal advice and there was no requirement for it to pay up.
Both say invites to meet and discuss the issue have been turned down by the other.
“It is completely unfair that the taxpayers of Horden have been given the burden of maintaining the full cost of our cemetery”Councillor Isabel Roberts
Now Horden says there is still an obligation for Peterlee to pay a debt owed for the maintenance of graves and will “only accept the £8,343 due”.
Its chairman Councillor Isabel Roberts, said she was “disgusted” by the decision.
She added: “It is completely unfair that the taxpayers of Horden have been given the burden of maintaining the full cost of our cemetery when a proportion of that cost falls to Peterlee Town Council, whose residents were buried in the cemetery for nearly 40 years before Peterlee had its own.
“Peterlee taxpayers did not have to pay for the additional cost of a cemetery until 1992, and the recent decision of the town council is morally reprehensible to disregard what has been acknowledged as a previously clear obligation to contribute towards the upkeep of Horden’s cemetery.”
It says until 1992, approximately 1,400 Peterlee residents were buried in the cemetery and that the annual expenditure of the cemetery in 2018 is forecast at over £110,000.
Horden has said the contribution is “very little” for the decades Peterlee did not have to run a cemetery because people used Horden’s.
It also says its plans for an extension to the Thorpe Road cemetery would not be needed if Peterlee had created its own sooner.
A spokesman for Peterlee Town Council said: “In 2017 the town council reviewed this agreement and, following legal advice, concluded the council had no contractual obligation to continue with these contributions.
“The council also concluded that after 25 years and £170,000 of support for Horden Parish Council it was in the interest of Peterlee tax payers to bring these arrangements to an end.
“Peterlee Town Council does not make financial contributions to any other local burial authorities, nor does it charge any other burial authorities for burials at Peterlee cemetery.”
Horden Parish Council will hold its annual assembly for residents on Wednesday from 6pm at Horden Social Welfare Centre.