Rising costs of funerals

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THE cost of dying in Wigan has nearly doubled over the past five years.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request have revealed that the cost of cremation has risen from £150 to £260 – an increase of 73 per cent.

The figures also revealed that the cost of burials in a public grave is up 42 per cent, from £165 in 2007 to £235 in 2011. The cost of burial in a private grave has increased from £335 to £685, a staggering 92 per cent increase.

The figures also showed that there has been a 12 per cent decrease in the number of both burials and cremations in the borough since 2007. Burials dropped from 671 to 586 last year, whereas cremations were down from 1269 in 2006/07 to 1108 in 2010/11.

Town halls across the UK have been accused of imposing “death taxes” on bereaved families by raising cemetery costs to help pay for front-line services.

The increases have come under fire from campaign group, the Taxpayers Alliance. Chief executive Matthew Elliot said: “It’s outrageous that even after you’ve died, councils are determined to reach into your pocket for even more of your money.

“Local authorities need to stop finding excuses to increase charges in a shameless attempt to raise revenue. They should focus on making real, lasting savings. Taxpayers already pay enough taxes over the course of their lives, they don’t need any more in death.”

However, research has shown that families are spending less money on funeral arrangements as the recession bites.

In response, a spokesperson for Wigan Lesiure and Culture Trust who manage burials and cremations in the borough, said: “Prices for burials have increased this year by the cost of inflation. Wigan’s burial and cremation costs, like many local authorities have increased in recent years, but they remain extremely competitive. In Wigan they reflect the average cost of burials/cremations across the Greater Manchester region.

“In 2012 an additional cost of £45 has been introduced for cremations to cover the cost of “burden sharing” - a government initiative which sets out to reduce the amount of mercury emissions into the atmosphere.

“We are currently investigating whether it is possible to install mercury abatement equipment at Wigan Crematorium. In the mean time, we are required to buy into a national burden sharing scheme which contributes to authorities which have already installed abatement equipment thereby off-setting Wigan’s mercury emissions.”

Figures published by Sun Life Direct show that the average cost of arranging a funeral in 2010 was £6,801 – a fall of 4.2 per cent or £297 less than it was in 2009.

But the overall decrease masks a small rise (4.5 per cent) in the costs of the non-discretionary costs, pushing the basic cost of a funeral up to £2,857. Doctors’ fees, funeral directors’ costs and an increase in burial and cremation costs have all risen.

Figures released at the same time by the Dying Matters Coalition found that half of UK adults have not made any financial provision for their deaths or even discussed their wishes with loved ones – leaving behind sizeable funeral expenses for relatives to cope with.