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Dailyrecord : Shock figures reveal burial costs in North Lanarkshire rise by 130% in 7 years

daily_record

Politicians have slammed shocking figures that reveal basic burial costs in North Lanarkshire have rocketed by more than 130 per cent in the last seven years.

The statistics obtained by the BBC through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show that North Lanarkshire’s internment cost went from £364 in 2010/11 to £845 in 2017/18 – a jump of 132 per cent.

It was the eighth highest out of the 30 local authorities who responded to the FOI request.

Neighbouring South Lanarkshire came third with a 151 per cent increase going from £335 to £842.

But North Lanarkshire Council say it has charged lower fees for burials in comparison to other local authorities “for many years”.

A recent Citizens Advice Scotland review said of the 55,000 funerals taking place in Scotland each year, 10 per cent of families struggle to pay the bill, with the average cost £3600.

A North Lanarkshire Council spokesperson said: “The council has charged a lower level of fees for burials compared to other councils for many years; these fees are also heavily subsidised. We recently increased fees to maintain the high level of service that we provide for bereaved families, which brings us in line with other local authorities.”

But Shotts MP Neil Gray has called on the council to reduce burial costs and told the Wishaw Press he is “deeply disappointed” with the statistics.

The SNP spokesperson for social justice in Westminster, added: “With the cost of funerals ridiculously high already, adding another £481 to that is a nonsense. People are struggling and getting into debt just to give their loved ones a decent burial and, at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.

“I am deeply disappointed by this as I’ve been working on funeral poverty since I entered Parliament and helped get movement on funeral plan regulations and on scrapping child burial costs. I call on the council to look again at their policy on burial costs and reduce them.”

MSP Alex Neil responded: “It is clear that North Lanarkshire Council sees funerals as a money-raising exercise for itself, despite the hardship and distress people are under when having lost a loved one.

“This policy is totally unreasonable, and cruel, and I call upon the council to cancel these increases immediately.”

Motherwell and Wishaw MP Marion Fellows said: “Funerals are difficult enough times for families without being hit with an unreasonable bill – least of all by your local council.

“The Scottish Government is expanding the funeral grant and what NLC is doing undermines that commitment.

“NLC must review the costs they are enforcing with an aim to significantly decrease them – not just freeze them. Any increase should be modest. Death should not be a money spinner.”

Wishaw MSP Clare Adamson added: “Funeral costs can be a real burden for families who already grieving. These burial costs are set by local councils and they should be asked to justify how much they charge.

“The Scottish Government have committed to introducing a new funeral expenses payment when social security powers are devolved from Westminster which will allow more people to qualify for financial assistance.”

According to the figures, the basic cost of a burial in Scotland has risen on average by 77 per cent since 2010 and the average debt incurred to meet costs is £1680.

Local government body COSLA said fees were based on “need and circumstance”.

A spokesman said: “Local authorities understand that bereavement is a stressful time for families, and are committed to making costs as affordable and transparent as possible.

“Fees and charges for any local government services are a matter for local determination.

“COSLA fully recognises that this is a sensitive issue and would be happy to work with the Scottish Government and those involved in the funeral business to consider whether any general guidance around the issue may be useful.”

This article has been first published in dailyrecord