Funeral directors from Copeland, West Cumbria have been angered by proposed rises in crematorium and cemetery fees in the area.
From April 2013, Copeland Council intends to increase its charges in a bid to bring in an extra £60,000 a year – meaning that cemetery and crematorium fees could rise by 15 and 12 per cent respectively.
Local funeral service operators in the area believe the rise to be too much; noting that as prices go up the level of service is going down.
It currently costs £694 for a cremation at Distington Hall. If that figure were to rise 12 per cent, the cost would become £769.
One funeral director remarked: “People have a family funeral fairly infrequently, so when they do they are generally shocked at the charges being made for the crem[atorium] and the cemetery. I have to explain to them that’s what they are.
“Cemetery charges in Copeland are reputedly much higher than other places in the north of England. The bureaucrats make these decisions and it is us that have to deal with the public face to face and tell them what they’ll have to pay. If you have a grave and you want to open it up it costs £539 and on top of that is £516 to pay for interment, totalling £1,055.”
Another undertaker added: “Everyone would agree that a 12 per cent increase in already high crem[atorium] fees is too much and the proposed 15 per cent increase in cemetery fees is inexplicable. Why Copeland is proposing to charge £681 for the interment alone (not including having to purchase the exclusive rights for a new grave) beggars belief.”
Copeland Council says it has no choice but to raise charges. The borough’s portfolio holder for the environment and sustainability, Allan Holliday, explained: “The proposed increases reflect the cost to the council of providing bereavement services now and in the future.
“This is just one of the proposals outlined in our budget consultation document. As has been discussed in recent weeks, we must save over £2.6million from our budget over the next two years, due to huge cuts to our funding. This means we have had to look at all areas of our spending, and potential income, to try and balance the budget.
“We have reviewed our costs with those of a number of other local authorities, and these are comparable. Many authorities charge an additional 50 per cent for burials or cremations for those from outside the borough. Under the current pricing regime, if we did not charge the extra then Copeland residents would be subsidising these burials and cremations. We do not believe this would be fair.
“We would encourage people to give us their views on the proposals by visiting www.copeland.gov.uk/future and filling in the consultation questionnaire online.”