‘Legally and morally we should be looking at it’.
That was one councillor’s response as he hit out at proposals to increase crematorium charges.
Councillor Huw George, a reverend who conducts many services at Parc Gwyn Crematorium near Narberth, said that the “jump” in cremation costs to the Welsh average was unreasonable.
Members of the policy and pre-decision overview and scrutiny committee was asked to considered the potential for additional income for the council – which could be around £210,000.
This is an increase from the £145,000 surplus currently made, a report to the committee states.
The current cost of cremation is £595 and the Welsh average £753.
That 27 per cent rise in cost, said Cllr George, would see an increase in profit of 67 per cent which “must not be right.”
Cabinet member for finance Cllr Bob Kilmister said the surplus would be spent to improve the crematorium facilities and support the public protection service but Cllr George argued that was not clear from the officer’s report.
The committee was also told that other options would include selling off the crematorium or increasing council tax to pay for improvements.
A lack of details of improvements and costs was put down to the cost of preparation being too high without a clear steer that a fee increase would be accepted.
Concerns were raised about the impact on the poorest in society while member of the public John Hudson, who addressed the committee, questioned the legality of the increases.
Cllr Tony Baron asked if an impact assessment had been carried out with people facing “a dramatic increase increase in costs relative to rates of inflation.”
“I would put it’s not reasonable to have such a large step change,” he added.
The cost of cremation at the nearest neighbouring crematoria in Llanelli is £785 and in Swansea it is £693, whilst to the north, in Aberystwyth, the cost is £865.
“I know many funeral directors, they are decent, honourable people, but they are not operating on a charitable basis, they are business people,” said head of public protection, Richard Brown.
“The idea that anybody has made an income from bereavement shouldn’t be seen as unpleasant as any other service,” he added.
The committee approved an amended recommendation that it supported in principle increasing the price of a cremation to the Welsh average for local authorities, a £67 reduction on the whole Wales average.