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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Anger at ‘tax on the dead’

PROPOSALS to hike up crematorium and cemetery fees in Copeland has angered local funeral directors who have to pass the increases on to bereaved families.

From April, Copeland Council intends to increase its charges to bring in an extra £60,000. The rises mooted are 15 per cent for cemeteries and 12 per cent for the crematorium at Distington Hall.

The fees are increased every year but have never before been by this much. Last year the rise was around five per cent.

Those who operate funeral services locally say this latest “tax on the dead” is just too much. And as the prices go up there is a feeling that the level of service is going down with reduced grass cutting, limited opening times and cuts in staffing. There have also been complaints from the public about the overgrown state of the grounds.

Currently it costs £694 for a cremation, which includes a £624 standard charge, plus £25 for the services of a medical referee, and £45 for the Cameo tax (an emissions fee). A 12 per cent increase takes that figure up to £769.

If your relative lives in Allerdale borough, even just over the boundary at neighbouring Distington Toll Bar from which the crematorium can be seen, there is a “non-resident” £118 surcharge levied on the deceased’s cremation, which takes the figure up to £812. If the price increase goes ahead that will be £887. Average funeral costs are around £2,500 and more people are looking at funeral payment plans to spread the cost and avoid leaving relatives with the cost burden.

One funeral director said: “People have a family funeral fairly infrequently, usually, so when they do they are generally shocked at the charges being made for the crem 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.

“Carlisle Crematorium charges are cheaper, but then the transport costs come into it, though I understand some of the Maryport undertakers are finding it is an option for their clients. Carlisle doesn’t charge extra if the deceased is from another area.’’

Another undertaker said: “Everyone would agree that a 12 per cent increase in already high crem 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.’’

Church fees are going up too. From January 1 the Church of England, which didn’t put its fees up this year, plans to increase the cost of a minister to take a funeral service at the crematorium from £102 to £160. Increasingly members of the family are doing it themselves, with a relative giving a eulogy.

Copeland Council says it doesn’t want to raise charges or cut services but it has no choice.

Coun Allan Holliday, Copeland’s portfolio holder for the environment and sustainability, said: “We are now in a situation where the pressures on budgets means that fees and charges for services must fully cover their costs.

“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.”

Have your say

this had to make me laff not only are the public and kids getting screwed over by the cuts when alive there now going to do it when your dead hahaha youl have to pay rent where your buried next

Posted by -andy cap on 10 November 2012 at 01:58

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