The Observer has revealed that local authorities are making millions of pounds by increasing the price of a traditional cremation, leading more people to choose direct cremation instead.
Families struggling to pay for funerals are facing rising prices across the country, helping councils to net a £55m surplus from cremations and cemetery burials in 2019, the Observer has learned.
Figures from more than 160 authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, obtained under Freedom of Information requests and seen by the Observer, show an average rise in fees this year of £26 – twice the rate of inflation. The biggest increase was imposed by Trafford council, a hike of £131, from £704 to £835.
Almost a quarter of the local authorities that provided data do not offer direct cremations, in which a body is cremated without a ceremony or mourners, allowing families to hold memorial services at a time and in a place of their own choosing. Another 19 offer direct cremation slots but do not advertise this.
Steven Cains, founder of Harbour, a funeral company which organises direct cremations, and which obtained the data, said the cost of cremations had risen far beyond inflation. “Given the lack of competition and the barriers to entry for new crematoria, more people are choosing direct cremation. Direct cremations account for one in 15 funerals, and we expect that figure to continue to rise as more people become disillusioned with expensive and hurried traditional funeral services,” he said.