Hike in cremation and burial fees labelled a 'death tax'
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Moves to increase cemetery prices in the Colchester area to help plug a "significant gap" in council finances has been labelled a "death tax" by opponents.
They voiced concerns that raising the cost of cremations by £85 and burials by £34 would hit those least able to afford it and were above the inflation rate.
But Colchester Borough Council's cabinet meeting last night (November 17) agreed the new fees and charges from 2022, including the 10.5% rise in cremation charges and 5% rise in the cost of burials.
Portfolio holders argued the need to recover from the Covid recession demanded an increase in fees.
Councillor Mike Lilley (Lab, Old Heath and The Hythe) asked cabinet members to reconsider, suggesting that money could be raised by increasing the price of parking tickets or fining those who pollute the environment instead.
He said: “This is one tax too many. People now are really struggling, or they will be struggling in the next few months.
“Rising energy costs, rising food costs, food shortages, everything ongoing.
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“They’ve just gone through the Covid situation, people have lost jobs, they’ve lost money, everything, and you want to impose a death tax further on people who can least afford to pay it.”
Councillor Dave Harris (Lab, Berechurch) spoke about his late neighbour, who he said spent his life savings after his wife’s death to pay for her funeral.
He said: “I saw the anguish and the trouble and tribulations that that family had to come together to try and pay for his last wishes at his funeral, etc, and I think the 10.5% increase in the cost of cremations and the rise in burials is perhaps a step too far that’s way above the inflation rate.”
Deputy leader Councillor Sue Lissimore (Con, Prettygate) though said the increases were less than those proposed by other authorities.
She said: “It’s a very difficult time, it’s always a difficult time but after what’s been going on the last 18 months, it’s always a difficult time to increase fees. We all realise that.
“However, there are obviously strains on the council’s finances and for the first time in many, many years we also have concern over inflation rates.”
She also said alternative options like raising parking fees would have a “knock-on effect” on businesses that suffered over the pandemic.
According to a council report, there is a “significant gap” in the authority’s finances that has been created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Losses are expected to continue into 2022-2023, particularly from car parking income, commercial rents, and from sport and leisure facilities.
The council expects to raise £1.6million from cemetery and crematorium charges, the report said.