Price hikes have led to a rise in cremation and burial fees, according to new research from Funeralbooker, the independent and impartial funeral comparison service.
Analysis of 2017 cremation and burial fees set by public and private crematoria and cemeteries shows that fees are not only rising for the second year in a row, but average increases of 5.2 percent for cremation and 5 percent for burial are seeing them hit new highs.
As a result, families will find themselves forced to spend an average of £753 for a cremation, while burial fees will now cost £1,792 on average. The hikes to these unavoidable fees will put even more of a squeeze on the budgets of the bereaved, raising concerns over the potential impact on funeral poverty and household debt.
The findings also reveal significant regional variations in both the level of increases being pushed through and the resulting fees. This means that families are at the mercy of a postcode lottery.
This has led to differences of as much as 7,000 percent or £18,064 for burial and 104 percent or £509 for cremation depending on where you are based in the UK.
UK price variations
Beckenham, Crawley, Leatherhead, Nuneaton, Moray, Dundee, Oxford, Northampton and Chichester are the joint most expensive places to be cremated in the UK, with families facing a £999 fee. This is in sharp contrast to the £490 fee – the lowest cremation fee in the UK – for residents of Feltham in Hounslow, London
Regionally, the South West sees the highest average cremation fee in the UK at £809, followed by the East of England and the South East at £796 each.
London takes the top slot for burial fees, with these averaging out at £3,806 – more than double the UK average. The capital is also home to the cemetery charging the single highest burial fee in the UK – Highgate Cemetery, which costs £18,325.
At the opposite end of the scale, Northern Ireland has seen some of the lowest price increases and remains the cheapest place to die. Cremation fees in Northern Ireland come in at just £610, while burial costs £419 – less than a quarter (23 percent) of the UK average fee of £1,792.
Around seven in ten people in the UK are cremated, with the relatively lower cost of cremation fees compared to burial costs undoubtedly helping to fuel this trend. The data shows, however, that 240 or 85 percent of the UK’s total of 282 crematoria are increasing their fees this year, with 221 hitting local families with inflation-busting price hikes.
Cheltenham Borough Council is the greatest offender – hiking cremation fees by 32 percent from £645 to £853. Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council is responsible for the second biggest increase, with cremation fees rising from £738 to £959 – 30% higher this year.
But despite being responsible for the biggest percentage hikes, council-operated crematoria are still typically cheaper than privately-owned. Funeralbooker reported that its analysis shows that the ten most expensive crematoria in the UK are all owned and operated by Dignity PLC – with cremation fees close to breaking the £1,000 barrier.
James Dunn, co-founder of Funeralbooker, says: “Funeral directors will dread these hikes because, firstly, they are the ones forced to explain these astronomical fees to bereaved families and, secondly, because it can put even more financial pressure on directors paying these fees upfront.
“We really want to draw attention to the great work of independent funeral directors across the UK and start to build greater understanding of the role cremation and burial fees have played in escalating the high cost of funerals in the UK. A lot of the increases in recent years cannot and should not be laid at the feet of independent funeral directors.
“Cremation is the cheapest option, but affordability is of growing concern. And, with some privately-owned crematoria close to breaking the £1,000 barrier, the danger is that local councils will raise their fees to follow suit. If these costs continue to climb, families will struggle and we will see funerals causing even greater hardship and stress.”
Funeralbooker’s analysis of prices took place across the UK’s entire stock of 282 publicly and privately owned crematoria and across 951 publicly and privately owned cemeteries that are still open for new burials. Data correct as at the end of April 2017.