Rise in the number of council-funded burials across Great Yarmouth

Borough of Great Yarmouth Magdalen Lawn Cemetery and Crematorium at Gorleston

Borough of Great Yarmouth Magdalen Lawn Cemetery and Crematorium at Gorleston - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

Council-funded burials across Great Yarmouth have increased threefold in the last decade.

The borough council has an obligation to conduct a funeral for anyone who dies without the means to pay for one.

The body could be buried in an unmarked common grave which could be used again.

A report to councillors showed 302 of these funerals have taken place since 2007, at a cost of £355,069 to the borough.

Also known as a public health funeral, they typically cost the council in the region of £1,000, including funeral director's fees, cremation or burial costs and doctor's fees if appropriate. The guidance of the Institute of Cemeteries and Cremation Managers states that there should be dignity provided in death for all people – there should be no obvious differences between a 'normal' funeral and a public health funeral.

A basic service is provided, and if friends and relatives attend then a Church of England minister or a funeral director will say a few words.

The report added: 'Frequently friends and relatives try to influence the proceedings requesting additions, for example limousines, but these are never accommodated as the costs could be used to offset the funeral costs.

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'The council does not subsidise funerals. Often this leads to angry exchanges with friends and relatives.'

Costs can be recovered by the council and in the same period over £200,000 was returned to the council from the deceased person's estates.

The report continued: 'It is very important for council officers to enter the property as soon as possible before personal papers, valuable items and cash etc are removed by others. Experience has shown that while friends and relatives may not pay for the funeral, there are people who will enter the deceased's property and remove valuable items very soon after death.'

Great Yarmouth Council said: 'If a relative needs financial help to arrange a funeral, the council will signpost them. For example, if someone is on benefits, they can apply to the DWP for a funeral payment.'

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