Council chiefs plan to launch a new funeral service as a low-cost option for grieving families.
Newcastle Borough Council is looking to team up with a local funeral director to provide the affordable service, due to concerns over increasing costs nationally.
The borough council, as a burial authority, runs Bradwell Crematorium and seven other cemeteries, and charges for graves, interment and cremation. But it says that most of the costs of funerals relate to services provided by funeral directors.
A number of local authorities, including Cheshire East Council, have already set up their own affordable funeral service in response to rising costs in the private sector.
According to a council report, the aim will be to ‘provide a simple, dignified end-to-end funeral service at a fixed cost’, to borough residents.
There would also be a cheaper ‘direct cremation’ option, which would involve the deceased being cremated without a traditional funeral service or the family being present.
As the borough council does not have the specialist capability to provide services such as storage and transportation in-house, the authority plans to partner with an existing funeral director.
Cabinet members will be asked to approve the proposals, and authorise the launch of a tender for the service, when they meet on Thursday.
A report to cabinet states: “Concern has been raised in recent times about the rising cost of funerals and the associated hardship this can cause bereaved families at a very difficult time.
“The Competition and Markets Authority have also instigated an investigation into the rising cost of funerals and cremations, with a view to determining whether current fees and charges across both local authority and private sector providers are fair and what options could be explored to address increasing costs.
“Following a request from cabinet members, the bereavement services team has been exploring the potential of delivering a residents’ funeral service, including a direct cremation option, with a view to increasing residents choice in relation to funerals and providing more affordable options to address the rising costs of funerals.
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“From looking at examples of other local authorities who are currently providing a residents’ funeral service, it is anticipated that an affordable service can be provided, which includes both the funeral director’s costs and the council’s cremation / burial costs.”
The borough council will invite bids to run the service from all funeral directors, but there will be a requirement for the company to have access to a chapel of rest within the borough.
According to the report, council leaders do not expect that the service will generate more than a ‘modest’ additional income for the authority.