TOWN councillors clashed over whether burials at the town cemetery should be so heavily subsidised by the public purse.

The cost of running the cemetery, off New Street, accounts for over ten per cent of the annual precept demand by the town council, - with the shortfall between expenses and income in the region of £35,000 a year.

Cllr Liz Harvey said: "Are we treating this as a park in terms of its amenity value, in terms of what it provides for the town's folk? How do we contrive to rationalise this?"

Figures released at last week's town council meeting in the Market House revealed that the town council spent £43,000 on the cemetery last year, and income was £8,500.

The debate arose when Cllr Clive Jupp asked why a rise in cemetery fees had been set at 5 per cent.

He said: "We have a duty to explain why we are doing this."

Cllr Tony Bradford said: "I do approve of Cllr Jupp's comments because it does seem that the increase has been sucked out of the air."

Cllr Bradford pointed out that Herefordshire Council looked at taking on the cemetery, several years ago, "but the town council decided to take it on and maintain it for the people of Ledbury".

He added: "Maybe we should look at this."

But Cllr Martin Eager said: "I suspect that if Herefordshire Council had the cemetery now, they would be asking us to take it over."

He added: "As it is, we have to think of the future and to raise the revenues, slightly."

The increase is to cover likely inflation, rather than the actual costs of running the cemetery.

Cllr Rob Yeoman said: "The charges are more of a way of providing an amenity. In no way do our charges recover costs; the 5 per cent rise was suggested as an inflation bias."