Funeral costs rise above inflation for second year

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UNDERTAKERS are being blamed for steep increases in charges levied by councils and churches for grave digging, burial and scattering of ashes, it was claimed yesterday.

A survey of funeral costs found that they have outstripped inflation for the second year running, rising by an average of 15 per cent this year, after a 20 per cent rise in in 1992. The average basic burial costs pounds 754, compared with pounds 656 last year and pounds 548 in 1991.

With an extra pounds 281 in 'disbursements' - fees paid to local authorities and churches by the undertaker and reclaimed from the family - the cost rises to pounds 1,035, according to the 11th annual survey by the Manchester Unity Friendly Society. Cremation, where costs have risen 18 and 6 per cent in 1992 and 1993, is cheaper: the average total cost is pounds 830.

The society says families should get quotes since prices can vary by hundreds of pounds.

However, funeral directors disputed the figures and blamed local authorities and the Church Commissioners for 'scandalous' increases in fees.

According to the National Association of Funeral Directors, churches have put up fees by up to 62 per cent and have also introduced charges in new categories, such as pounds 47 for burying cremated remains 'loose' against pounds 52 for burial in a casket.