Grieving families get 'raw deal' from crematorium price hike
PUBLISHED: 08:00 29 September 2015 | UPDATED: 08:58 29 September 2015
GRIEVING people are being charged 'unfair' amounts to say goodbye to loved ones at Weston Crematorium, after yet another price hike led to claims people are being driven out of town for funerals.
People in Weston-super-Mare are getting a ‘raw deal’ according to objectors, after Dignity Funeral Care raised charges at the Ebdon Road crematorium to almost £200 more than nearby Sedgemoor Crematorium, in Highbridge.
Dignity will begin charging people £872 for a cremation with a full service or committal from Saturday – £57 more than it has charged in the past year.
The crematorium was run by North Somerset Council until 2010, but since Dignity took over its prices have virtually doubled from the £440 the authority charged.
The hikes have seen Dignity accused of relying on grieving people’s ‘extra stress’ levels, which may prevent them from shopping around.
Funeral director Gavin Burnett, of Howard Goodman Funeral Directors in Weston’s Boulevard, could not see the reasons for such a rise.
He said: “At a time when people’s finances are more stretched than ever, it seems unfair to put cremation charges up yet again.
“People in Weston don’t want to have to travel out of town.
“But with a price difference of nearly £200, I am sure people will start to think about it.”
A spokesman for Dignity said it will guarantee its prices will not rise for another 12 months and said its fees cover an extensive service.
Its spokesman told the Mercury: “The increase in the cremation fee is an annual increase.
“Our fee includes use of the chapel and all facilities for the funeral service.”
Dignity has invested £2million in the crematorium, extending its chapel and improving its toilets, waiting room and car park.
The Dignity spokesman said: “The chapel and waiting areas can now accommodate the large number of mourners that often attend funerals in Weston.
“This investment spares mourners from having to stand outside a crematorium during a funeral, especially during the winter months.”
Its spokesman said the fees match the national average, and are ‘similar’ to Canford and South Bristol, which both charge £715, and Taunton Deane, which charges £650.
But Mr Burnett disagreed, and said: “It seems to me to be one of the highest increases out of all our other third party costs which we have to pass on to people.
“Funerals are expensive as it is. But I think that’s what they rely on – there’s all that extra stress, so people aren’t going to wait to shop around, and I suppose they rely on that.”
He also said Dignity’s investment costs should not be being passed on to the general public, and said: “If I chose to redecorate my business, then I’m not going to pass that on to my customer.
“The brand new crematorium in Sedgemoor is only two years old, it has all the state-of-the-art facilities and it is still cheaper.
“People feel they don’t have a choice, because a lot don’t want to travel.”
Weston Crematorium does offer a reduced-cost service at 9am each week day, for which it charges £540.
The spokesman said: “This fee (for the reduced-cost service) has not been increased for two years to assist those that want to arrange a funeral on a limited budget.”