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Renfrewshire families face 'outrageous' cemetery charges as hikes voted through by council

Families suffering a bereavement in Renfrewshire will have to contend with “totally unacceptable” cemetery charges after a series of hikes were voted through.

The cost of council services covering new lairs, coffin burials and cremated remains have increased by hundreds of pounds – with the new prices branded “absolutely outrageous” by some elected members.

In a report, senior officers said the changes, which are expected to take effect from today, bring fees in line with the Scottish average.

But the Labour group lambasted the way they were brought about at the recent infrastructure, land and environment policy board – labelling the move a “step too far” by the administration.

Councillor Chris Gilmour, his party’s spokesperson, said at the meeting: “At this moment in time, we’re in a cost-of-living crisis.

“If we accept these increases, we’re going to be in a cost-of-dying crisis.”

A portrait image of Councillor Chris Gilmour
Labour councillor Chris Gilmour criticised the charges brought forward

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The cost of a new lair for Renfrewshire residents has risen from £620.90 to £999.50 and from £1,862.60 to £2,998.50 for non-Renfrewshire residents.

Additionally, a coffin burial has increased from £647 to £913 for Renfrewshire residents and from £1,940.90 to £2,739 for non-Renfrewshire residents.

Meanwhile, cremated remains went up from £142.55 to £258 for Renfrewshire residents and from £427.65 to £774 for non-Renfrewshire residents.

There is no charge for interment fees, lair purchase and headstone permits and foundation for those under 18 years old.

Councillor Gilmour believes the charges could have been gradually “stepped up” over a longer period of time.

“It’s totally unacceptable to ask people in Renfrewshire to meet these charges,” he warned. “It’s a huge ask.”

The politician put forward an amendment requesting original costs be retained.

He said: “Whether you’re on reduced circumstances or you’re not, a bereavement in any family is a traumatic time and to be asked now to incur huge additional costs, I think it’s a step too far.”

An image of Renfrewshire Council leader Iain Nicolson
SNP council leader Iain Nicolson said the costs were 'artificially low' beforehand

SNP council leader Iain Nicolson responded: “Yes, the charges should have been increased over a long period of time and that would have meant then that the investment would have went into these cemeteries over a similar period of time.

“We’ve seen recently we’ve had to invest millions into cemeteries due to lack of investment and that is because, as he points out, the costs have been too low.

“The cost from the council with regards to interments has been artificially low and there’s a true cost to that.

“The other point I want to make as well is having a burial in a cemetery is a choice for families.

“It’s not imposed on anybody.

“It’s a choice for them to select that particular way of remembering their family members.

“They have other options and choices as well which in Renfrewshire are operated by private companies to a greater extent.”

A portrait image of Councillor Michelle Campbell
SNP environment board convener Michelle Campbell chaired the meeting

Labour group leader Iain McMillan described the prices as “absolutely outrageous” and felt it was “unfair” that people and their families were now having to pay the price of previous under-investment in cemeteries.

SNP board convener Michelle Campbell pointed out the “serious difficulties” local authorities are facing amid a challenging financial context.

She added: “For me, this is a relatively easy decision to make versus some of the more difficult things that are likely to come.

“The fact is that I have my eyes wide open about the impact for local authorities and I take the chair position very seriously and making sure that we represent people to make sure that we’re best protecting them.”

The new charges passed after eight members voted for their approval, with six opting for the amendment.

People can apply for Scottish Government support if they are responsible for a funeral and receive certain benefits.

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