Wakefield Councillors have defended cremation prices, 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, charging £937 for a single service.
Councillor 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.
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. 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.”
But Labour members 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.
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.
Coun Cummings also said that surplus made from cremations was reinvested into car parking at Pontefract, into memorial gardens and remembrance trees.