Council scraps rise in burial costs after coronavirus outbreak

PUBLISHED: 09:22 12 April 2020 | UPDATED: 09:22 12 April 2020

East Suffolk Council had been due to raise burial costs in Waveney, as part of plans agreed in early January, but have now deferred the change until next year. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

East Suffolk Council had been due to raise burial costs in Waveney, as part of plans agreed in early January, but have now deferred the change until next year. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

© Archant 2012

A council has scrapped plans to raise burial costs this year as the number of coronavirus deaths continues to rise.

In January, East Suffolk Council’s cabinet agreed increase fees across Waveney to bring them in line with the former Suffolk Coastal district after the merger of the two councils last year.

The increase was due to come into force on April 1, with some fees rising by 15pc, but with the Coronavirus death toll at the James Paget University Hospital reaching 30 this week, the council has opted to defer the increase until next year.

Councillor Stephen Burroughes, cabinet member for operational services, said: “The fees and charges a council sets to cover the costs of delivering a wide range of important services were considered during last Autumn and agreed in early January, prior to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Since the creation of the new East Suffolk Council, fees that were previously agreed separately by the former Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils are being gradually ‘equalised’ to ensure consistency across the new authority area.

“In the case of burial fees, charges in the former Waveney area have always been much lower than in Suffolk Coastal and also in comparison to other locations in the region.

“Therefore, while some of the charges associated with burials were frozen in the south of the new district, they were increased in the north - albeit, the charge for burials in Lowestoft and other nearby locations would remain well below the national average.

“However, in light of the current unprecedented situation, and like all local authorities, East Suffolk Council is reflecting on and reviewing the costs which people incur for a variety of different reasons.

“The current pandemic means we must sometimes take different decisions and alter our approach if it is the right thing to do in the current circumstances.

“Therefore, following discussions this week, we will be deferring any increases until next year and are to maintain the charges at the levels set in 2019-20.

“It is the council’s belief that consistency is critically important and fees for something of this nature should not be a postcode lottery.

“This is an element of council services which actually loses hundreds of thousands of pounds a year and, while a move towards cost equalisation will not actually resolve that, it will help to ensure fairness for all.

“However, in these difficult times, deferring this process is a sensible and reasonable step to take.”

The council runs cemeterys in Lowestoft, Beccles, Bungay, Halesworth, Southwold, Aldeburgh, Leiston, Saxmundham, Wrentham and Woodbridge.

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