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Hike in burial fees defended by Powys cabinet member

A SENIOR Powys County Councillor has defended a 10-per cent increase in burial fees from April.

The proposal is part of a number of cost cutting, savings and income generation measures worth over £770,000 that have been put forward by the council’s  Planning, Public Protection and Property department as part of the 2023/2024 draft budget.

These were discussed by members of the council’s Economy, Residents and Communities scrutiny committee on Monday, January 30.

In January the cabinet set their draft budget which includes increasing Council Tax by five per cent.

The council needs to make cuts and savings as part of the overall drive to find £16.4million to bridge its funding gap for 2023/2024.

Increasing burial fees could generate an extra £42,810 a year but there are risks that people could choose other cemeteries to bury their loved ones.

The increase could also prove unaffordable to some people – and the cost of public health burials could rebound on the council.

Committee chairman, Cllr Angela Davies said: “The increase in burial fees is a very emotive subject, and it’s something that is going to affect us all one way or another.”

Cllr Angela Davies

She pointed out that the council already has the fourth highest charges in Wales.

Cllr Davies said: “If we’re already one of the dearest are we justified in putting it up.

“It just feels like a an uncomfortable area to be increasing charges.”

She also asked if any research to compare funeral cost had been done by the department?

Cabinet member for a safer Powys, Cllr Richard Church said:  “I can’t answer your question in relation to comparison with spiritual chapel burials.

Cllr Richard Church

“I can say that this is the first increase in burial fees we’ve had since 2019.”

Cllr Church said that the increase was in line with inflation and that the council was aiming to provide a “cost neutral” service.

Cllr Church added that there had no evidence of a loss of burials for the council from price increases in the past.

Due to this Cllr Church believed it was “reasonable” to increase the fee.

“Of course it’s always a risk and you may reach a point where it is a loss,” said Cllr Church.

Head of planning, property and public protection, Gwilym Davies said: “There is a potential for residents to go to other locations in Powys or across the border and that is something that we need to monitor closely.”

Powys manages 17 cemeteries all across the county.

Maesgwastad Cemetery Welshpool

The council is also legally tasked with undertaking public health funerals when someone dies in Powys and there are no known relatives or friends able to make the funeral arrangements.

This happened eight times in 2020 and seven times in 2021.