Funeral prices to soar 50 per cent as Church feels effect of downturn

The Church of England is planning to increase the cost of funerals by nearly 50 per cent to bring consistent pricing across its parishes and raise extra revenue at a time of continued economic hardship.

In a proposal set to be discussed tomorrow at the church's General Synod in York, the price of a funeral will rise from £102 to £150 while weddings will go up from £284 to £425.

Church leaders stress that the move is an attempt to streamline the way churches charge for their services by bringing in a standard fee in response complaints that parishes often had different pricing lists. But many will feel hit hard by the price increases which have been replicated elsewhere.

Under pressure to significantly cut their budgets and invent new ways of raising extra revenue, councils up and down the country have been increasing the cost of weddings and funerals, often far beyond the rate of inflation.

In South Tyneside funeral costs are rising 18 per cent this year while in Milton Keynes burial costs are up 20 per cent. In Renfrewshire the cost of buying a grave has increased 47 per cent.

Last year, a survey by the National Association of Funeral Directors found that, across the country, charges by local authorities for cremation and burial had risen by up to 48 per cent since 2007. The fees charged by funeral directors for a typical funeral reached an average of £1,515, up 3.25 per cent since 2007.

Church leaders have been advocating changes in the way parishes set their parochial fees which also cover searches in parish registers and for certified copies of register entries.

On top of these fees, churches can also charge for extras such as heating and lighting, often pushing wedding services beyond the £400 barrier.

Under the proposed rules the number of chargeable extras would be reduced and a flat fee introduced instead. Items such as flowers, musicians, bell ringers, printing special service sheets will still be charged as extras.

The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend James Longstaff, who is tabling the proposal, told The Independent: "If you compare the costs of a civil ceremony, church services are still very good value. We're told that the average cost of a wedding nowadays is £18,000 so I think the new prices are reasonable and reflect the cost of conducting such ceremonies."

William Fittall, secretary general to the General Synod, said: "Up to now what you are charged when you go along to a church has varied hugely. In many cases the extra amounts charged by churches have been very substantial. The net effect will be that some churches will receive less than they had been able to charge but some will find that they receive more."

Case Study

Daniel Spencer: 'My father's ashes were held hostage'

My father died of dementia in 2008, aged 61, but when he was of sound mind he said he wanted his ashes scattered on the river Dee where he lived in Chester. But a crematorium wanted £300 for handing over my father's ashes. After paying for the coffin, funeral director's fee and cremation we could not afford this additional fee and the ashes were scattered on a rose garden in the crematorium grounds. There is only one way to look at this grim situation; my father's remains were held hostage and consequently disposed of not by his son in the river of our hometown but by a faceless stranger in a location far from his final wish. I have lost what I believe to be a valuable sense of closure all for the sake of £300.

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