Burial charges hit the roof

BURIAL and cremation charges across Northumberland will soar from tomorrow, after county council chiefs agreed to hike the price of being laid to rest.

While the cost of a standard adult cremation at Blyth will increase from £389 to £580, the biggest rises will be imposed on burials at council-owned cemeteries from April 1, where the cost of buying a single adult grave plot will leap from £383 to £570, while the actual burial itself will go up from £362 to £540 on a weekday, or from £725 to £815 on a Saturday.

A £20 charge is also being introduced for the right to have a headstone.

Cemeteries affected include North Road and Tweedmouth in Berwick, Chevington, Cresswell, Pegswood and Fairmoor, near Morpeth.

However, burials managed by town and parish councils are not affected by the increases, as they set their own schedule of charges.

The decision was taken by the council’s corporate directors under delegated powers, with the backing of Liberal Democrat council leader Jeff Reid.

Conservatives at County Hall, however, have branded the move ‘vindictive and clumsy’, while warning that further increases in subsequent years have not been ruled out.

Coun Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland Conservatives, said: “Of all the cuts made by the Lib Dems, this must be the most hurtful to local residents. People are at their most vulnerable when they are laying their loved ones to rest. Unfortunately the Lib Dems have chosen to view this as a money-making opportunity.

“There has been no proper consultation with undertakers or with the general public. There has been no consideration of what will happen when people struggling on low incomes simply cannot afford to give their loved ones a dignified send-off.”

Executive member for neighbourhood services Coun Ian Lindley, who was consulted on the changes, said the review brought Northumberland in line with other authorities in the North East.

“In terms of pricing, we were well down the table compared to other local authorities regionally,” he said. “We have been running the service on a shoestring and have an obligation to deliver value for money and efficiency. We have to be competitive and I am happy with the pricing structure we now have.”

The cost of being buried

Authority: NCC Alnwick TC Amble TC Newcastle City

Standard grave £570 £275 £275 £645

Burial fee £540 £180 £210 £643

Headstone foundation + fee £295 £85 £100 £236*

Total: £1405 £540 £585 £1533* (£1297)

*Fee only payable if plot bought before Sept 29 1992