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Burial fees to rise in Sandwell Council budget battle

Sandwell | News | Published:

Burial fees and charges for leisure services will rise as part of a raft of increases proposed by cash-strapped Sandwell Council.

The cost of an adult cremation would jump from £607 to £631 from April this year under the plans. And the price for an adult grave purchase and burial fee would rise from £2,450 to £2,548.

The council is battling to deal with multi-million pound cuts. Around £40 million of cutbacks have already been identified for the next two financial years.

Bosses are also working up plans to find a further £22m – including a shake-up of how the council buys goods and how it tackles new public health duties – as part of the Facing the Future programme.

Council officers, in a report to tomorrow's cabinet, said they had taken into account the 'needs of the service' in proposing a rise in fees.

Other increases would include a two per cent rise for hiring some halls at West Bromwich Town Hall, Wednesbury Town Hall and Smethwick Council House.

Hiring the Sandwell Suite at Sandwell Register Office on Fridays to Sundays and Bank Holidays would rise from £354 to £368.

Fees are also being increased for a range of licenses including for scrap metal sites, bingo premises and for adult gaming centres.

A fishing season ticket for the borough has risen from £25 to £30 and some room hire fees at both Forge Mill and Sandwell Park farms have gone up.

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Deputy council leader, Councillor Mahboob Hussain, said the burial fee increases should be taken in context of investing in improvements and new services at its sites.

"We're investing £1.4m in improving and extending the crematorium at Rowley Regis and we opened a brand new crematorium at Sandwell Valley in 2011," he said. "We're making further improvements and investing in a £375,000 building where families can hold a wake after services at Sandwell Valley Crematorium."

He added the authority was 85 per cent cheaper than the rest of the West Midlands for people burying loved ones who live outside the borough.

Councillor Steve Eling also defended the increased fees. He said: "We have been moderate in our increases which are similar to the rate of inflation. However, while we are committed to keeping free universal services, as the government cuts bite more and more, many services will rely on income from fees to survive."

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