THE Waltham Forest Family History Society has raised concerns about "extortionate" council fees to look up burial records at the borough's cemeteries.
The organisation was shocked when one of its members asked a member of staff for help locating a grave and was told they would have to pay £38, even though they had a date of death and death
The society says the council has not charged for the service in at least 15 years at its sites, which include Queens Road graveyard in Walthamstow and Chingford Mount Cemetery.
The authority denies this and claims there has always been a fee for staff looking up records.
Mark Carroll, secretary of the society, said: "We feel this charge doesn't reflect the amount of work required to extract the information.
"If you have a date of death it usually only takes one or two minutes to find out.
"It's particularly a problem if you live a distance away and want to find out information about a relative, then it's a major expense.
"The council appears to be doing this just to raise extra revenue".
Local authorities are required by law to make burial records available to inspect for free, but can charge if a member of staff is asked to look up the information.
The society claims the council was recently caught charging £38 for people to simply inspect the registers, before they backtracked when members pointed out it was against the law.
Chair Tim Hogg said the cost could not be justified when compared to rates at other larger London cemeteries.
He said fees ranged from just £1.50p in West Ham, from £12 in Brookwood and between £8 and £51 at Westminster depending on the amount of work involved.
Mr Hogg said: "[The council] have not taken measures to make records easily or inexpensively available.
"They could simply put copies of the older registers in local libraries and the Vestry House Archives to remedy that. An appointment need not then be necessary".
The society is also urging the council to introduce a sliding scale of charges based on the amount of work involved.
A council spokesman said: "There has always been a charge if members of the public want a council officer to conduct a search on their behalf, and this is true for practically every London borough.
"Residents can conduct their own search for free if they call 020 8524 5030 to book an appointment to view the register themselves."
Visit www.wffhs.org.uk or call 020 8530 4755 for more information on the Waltham Forest Family History Society.
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