Express & Star

"It is cheaper to stay alive" - Increase in Walsall cremation fees touted

Cremation fees in Walsall could go up for the next two years in a bid to generate an extra £360,000 prompting criticism that it is 'cheaper to stayer alive'.

Streetly Crematorium run by Walsall Council

The latest Walsall Council draft budget includes proposals to increase cremation fees by six per cent in 2018/19 and 2019/20, with the authority is hoping to rake in an extra £180,000 a year for each of those.

It comes as the authority looks to make an extra £31 million in cuts across the board during the period.

Currently, cremation fees for someone aged 16 and under cost £274, which would increase to £290 from April under the proposal.

For people aged 17 and over, the fee is currently £781, which would go up to £827.

A late service fee would also increase from £105 to £111.

The council has defended the proposed increases by saying they are in line with other neighbouring areas.

Change agenda chief Councillor Ian Shires said: "The fee increase was consulted upon in 2016 as part of the Council’s four year financial plan.

"Walsall fees remain broadly in line with the other Black Country local authorities and this income will also help the Council continue to provide high quality bereavement services in the borough."

Leader of the opposing Conservative group Councillor Mike Bird said: "I think we average slightly higher than most other areas in the Black Country.

"At the end of the day it costs money to die. It seems cheaper to stay alive."

While he also issued a swipe towards the controlling administration who stated the wider cuts across the budget would not impact on residents.

Deputy Leader Lee Jeavons said last week the funding reductions were 'operational' and not 'policy' savings adding there would be 'little or no' effect on services.

Councillor Bird added: "They keep saying the savings will be made through efficiencies but what that means is jobs will be lost. What they can't seem to say is exactly where they will be lost.

"My question is where are these efficiencies going to come from? Every year there there are overspends in departments and what do we do? The same thing and say we are going to make efficiencies, it doesn't add up."