Council defends cost of £70 posy vases amid criticism

Row over cost of posy vases on benches at Gorleston

Gorleston is a popular spot for dedications on benches, but floral tributes have been banned unless they are fixed to the back using one of the council's standard posy vases which costs £70 plus VAT. Gorleston councillor Paul Wells says it is an emotive issue, and, inset, one of the tributes removed by the council in 2020. - Credit: GYBC, Ray Clarke and Archant

A council has defended the cost of posy vases in Gorleston after it banned floral tributes on seaside benches.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council decided that only flowers fixed to seats in its regulation vases would be allowed, and all others removed.

From April the cost of a vase was set at £70 plus VAT.

Row over £70 posy charge at Gorleston

Ray Clarke with his dog Darcy at Gorleston. He agrees flowers should be fixed behind the seat in vases and has had his own printed for under £7 when the council is charging £70. - Credit: Ray Clarke

Ray Clarke, 62, from Gorleston has tagged the cost as "scandalous" and "money-grabbing" and has set up a Facebook page to challenge the move.

He says he has 3D printed his own for less than £7 and fixed it on himself.

Other people on the page have described the fee as "beyond belief".

It comes after flowers were removed from memorial benches in the summer of 2020 amid virus fears and claims the number of tributes was making social distancing difficult, and had even caused an injury.

A council spokesperson said: “We realise this is a sensitive issue.

A busy beach and promenade at Gorleston.
A weekend of warm and sunny weather.
May 2012

Many of the dozens of benches at Gorleston have memorial dedications but floral tributes are only allowed if a council posy vase is purchased for £70 plus VAT. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

"In some areas the number of flowers and tributes left has made it difficult for people to use the benches, and yet we also know it is upsetting for friends and relatives to have tributes cleared away.

"The idea of posy vases is to give people an option to pay their respects in a managed way, while also helping keep the area tidy and available for the public to use.

The posy that was removed from a family memorial bench in Gorleston. Great Yarmouth Borough Council

Flashback: The posy that was removed from a family memorial bench in Gorleston. Great Yarmouth Borough Council said in summer 2021 that floral tributes hinder social distancing - Credit: Archant

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“The £70 costs reflects not just the cost of the posy vase itself, which is designed for ten years or more, but also the costs of individual installations including security fixtures and staff time.”

The council went on to say an initial stock would soon be available for installation, and that other flowers would be removed.

Row over £70 posy vases at Gorleston

The vase Ray Clarke has had 3D printed and fitted to a bench himself for under £7, which he says makes the borough council's fee of £70 'scandalous.' - Credit: Ray Clarke

The posy vase includes a drain hole to prevent over-filling and stagnant water build up. Officials stress they are intended for fresh flowers, rather than planting.

Mr Clarke, however, said he took issue with both the design and cost saying he had had a better one 3D printed for £6.73 which the council had seen, and he was using on a bench dedicated to his family members.

Row over £70 posy vase fee on Gorleston seafront

Ray Clarke says he will not be removing the posy vase he made for less than £7 from a bench in Gorleston dedicated to four family members. The borough council is asking people to pay £70 plus VAT for its vases, the fee including staff time and materials. - Credit: Ray Clarke

He also said he had offered to fix the vases in place for free, and that with many people facing hard times a charge of around £20 would be more "appropriate and fair."

Paul Wells, chairman of Great Yarmouth Borough Council's environment committee

Paul Wells, chairman of Great Yarmouth Borough Council's environment committee who represents the Gorleston ward said the posy vases were a 'proportionate compromise.' - Credit: Great Yarmouth Borough Council

The updated dedications policy, adding the option of posy vases to existing memorial plaques, was approved by the environment committee in November 2021.

The current fees and charges were confirmed by full council in February this year.

Councillor defends vase decision

Paul Wells, whose borough council ward includes the seafront, said: "I do appreciate that this is an extremely emotive issue, but it is important that the amenities of the Gorleston cliff top and seafront are accessible to every resident and we need to balance that with people’s wish to leave tributes to loved ones.

"The vases are a proportionate, compromise solution, agreed on a cross party basis allowing residents the opportunity to provide additional tributes, in a non-intrusive way.

"This is an optional service and so the charge needs to cover all the costs to the council of providing and fitting the vases, and covers a ten-year dedication period."