Call for Cap on 'Ridiculous' £3k Burial Fees
6 January 2016, 13:30
Calls have been made for a cap on burial costs after one council officer admitted fees of almost £3,000 are "absolutely ridiculous''.
MSPs heard the cost of buying a plot and interment ranges from £694 in the Western Isles to £2,785 in East Dunbartonshire.
Audrey Hardie, cemeteries officer for East Dunbartonshire Council, told Holyrood's Local Government and Regeneration Committee that many families cannot afford the fees.
She was questioned by Willie Coffey MSP, who said: "It's a huge, huge cost and I'm quite surprised how anybody can afford to be buried in East Dunbartonshire, to be perfectly honest."
Ms Hardie said: "The actual cost is set at committee and the revenue that we receive back from the charges we incur is directly set against different budget lines, so the money we receive doesn't actually come directly into our service.
"Three years ago, why they came up with this figure, they increased the prices by 25% and then the following year 50%, so there's a huge jump in costs over a two-year period and last year they went up by the rate of inflation.
"I really don't know what the costs will be this year but I'm hoping that they freeze the prices because it's come to saturation point with a lot of families where they just can't afford it.
"Personally, I'm probably speaking out of turn here, but I think they're absolutely ridiculous and it's myself that gets the front line with most of the people that phone in or complain about the cost because I'm the public face for the cemeteries.''
The committee is currently scrutinising the Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill, which seeks to address the increasing pressure on available land for burials in Scotland and help reduce costs.
Ms Hardie added: "I've got no control over what the costs are and I've to try and justify why these costs are set. I think it would help if... whether they could cap them in some way.''
Fraser Sutherland, policy officer for Citizens Advice Scotland, backed the idea of a cap on the amount of increase allowed in any one year.
He said: ``I struggle to put it any better than the representative from East Dunbartonshire Council herself, who said it was ridiculous, the increases.
"Last year we saw another council increase their charges by 42%. We've got this increasing variation across Scotland of one council charging almost £3,000 and another council charging £700.
"Families in these areas, or the clients of our service in particular, don't necessarily have any more money because they live in one council compared to another but yet they are expected to pay that additional money.''