Kirklees Council is going ahead with controversial changes to its bereavement services – including increased charges and weekend burials.
Now a Huddersfield funeral director has branded the shake-up a “money-making exercise” for the council and criticised a lack of consultation about the changes with undertakers and clergy.
Changes coming into effect in September include limiting the number of burials to three a day at council cemeteries in South Kirklees and three a day at cemeteries in North Kirklees; fining families if cremation or burial services get under way late or overrun; imposing higher charges for opening graves and increasing the charge levied for Saturday cremations.
Weekday cremations before 10.30am will cost £629 or £713 after 10.30am. But a premium charged levied for Saturday cremations would rise by £661 to £1,374.
The charge for opening a grave will rise from £826 – whether for one or two interments – to £944 for a single grave with a further fee of £393 for two. Saturday interments will cost the same as during the week.
Burial times at the council’s 14 cemeteries will be standardised and the length of burial services limited to 30 minutes – with just three slots a day allocated to cemeteries in North and South Kirklees.
A Kirklees report said: “Service times for burials will be standardised and the length of burial services will be limited to ensure the management of an efficient and transparent booking system.
“Longer service times could be requested by booking and paying for additional service time, subject to operational availability. In line with cremations, late/early arrival fees will also be charged.”
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Relatives visiting a cemetery to select a plot for their loved ones will also have to pay a £67 fee.
Funeral director Paul McNulty said the changes were a “money-making exercise” and said they would have a huge impact on bereaved relatives.
He said how the charges had been decided “remains a mystery” as Kirklees no longer consulted on its proposals – unlike neighbouring Calderdale.
He said: “Kirklees used to adopt this process and I have sat on several bereavement meetings in the past that were very positive.
“However, it seems this practice has ceased and the decisions re increases are now given over to council employees who make these changes without reference to those people on the ground who have firsthand knowledge of both cremation and burial services.”
He said burial provision seven days a week was “ludicrous” given that clergy were usually busy at weekends with weddings, baptisms and Sunday services.
A Kirklees spokesperson said: “The modernisation of bereavement services including the new fee strategy was approved at cabinet on 27 February 2018.
"The council carried out a period of extensive engagement with interested groups including funeral directors, faith groups and individuals before agreeing the changes.
"Kirklees Council carries out around 500 burials a year and has developed a model which allows us to continue offering a comprehensive, cost effective and high quality service for local people.
"The prices for burial services increased to the average of the other West Yorkshire authorities, with the exception of Leeds.
"The new charging structure balances the costs of the service we are offering with people’s ability to pay. By moving to a West Yorkshire average for burials, we are at the right level compared to our neighbours, and we have managed to create a service delivery model that works for all faiths and those of no faith."