Wakefield Council defends £937 cremation price following 'death tax' claims

Figures published by the BBC last month showed Wakefield and Pontefract crematoria were the third most expensive in the country.
Figures published by the BBC last month showed Wakefield and Pontefract crematoria were the third most expensive in the country.

Wakefield Council's ruling Labour group has defended prices being charged for cremations, following claims grieving families are facing an unaffordable "death tax".

Figures published by BBC News last month showed that the council's crematoria in Wakefield and Pontefract were the third most expensive anywhere in the UK, with relatives charged £937 for a single service.

Lib Dem councillor Tom Gordon

Lib Dem councillor Tom Gordon

Liberal Democrat Tom Gordon questioned the charges at a full council meeting on Wednesday, and suggested they were too high for some people in the district to afford.

But Labour said that the £937 figure was an "all inclusive one" and that the council did not charge extras for urns or ashes scattering, unlike other authorities.

Councillor Gordon said: "These charges are despite the fact we are one of the areas where deprivation is highest and people are the least well off.

"In 2015/16 the charge was £712. Now it's £937. Inflation hasn't been going up like that, wages haven't been going up like that.

Councillor Maureen Cummings, Cabinet member for communities.

Councillor Maureen Cummings, Cabinet member for communities.

"Quite frankly, I want to know where the £500,000 surplus the council is making from this is going, and whether or not Labour will be clamping down on the death tax our citizens are facing."

In response, Councillor Maureen Cummings, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said that the BBC had only used the "headline figure", without taking extra charges into account.

"Our figure includes the urn, it includes the levy, it includes the scattering of ashes," she said. "It is all inclusive."

"You look at Kirklees, I think its £827 (for a service), but when you add all those charges on you end up at £913, which is not far off Wakefield.

"Calderdale charges £737, but then you add £115 of administration fees, which we don't charge.

"We don't charge different amounts for a 3.30 service or a 10.30 service. Other authorities do."

Coun Cummings also said that surplus made from cremations was reinvested into the service.

She added: "It's gone into the car parking at Pontefract, into memorial gardens, remembrance trees and making the facilities better."

The BBC obtained the figures from the charity The Cremation Society, who collected the data.

In a rundown of the latest available prices, Milton Keynes and Barrow-in-Furness were shown to be the most expensive crematoria in the UK, charging £960 and £959 for a service respectively.

Local Democracy Reporting Service