Paupers’ funerals cost East Lancashire councils more than £50,000 last year.
UK-wide, nearly £5.4million was spent on public health funerals by local authorities in the financial year 2017-18, a mutual insurer has found.
The total cost of public health funerals across the UK in 2017-18 was £5,382,379, according to Royal London, which received responses from 275 local authorities to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
Blackburn with Darwen Council held 18 paupers’ funerals at a cost of £29,647.58.
In 2016/17, the council had also held 18 but costing £33,542.76.
Burnley Council arranged 17 public health funerals last year at a cost of £13,101.97 compared to six costing a total of £4,392 in 2016/17.
In Hyndburn, five funerals cost £7,809 compared to four costing £6,353 the previous year.
Pendle Council paid £3,564 to arrange four papupers’ funerals last year, down from £5699.66 for six funerals in 2016/17.
Public health funerals, which are also known as paupers’ funerals, are “no frills” services provided by the local authority, which in general include a coffin and the services of a funeral director but do not include flowers, obituaries or transport for family members.
Families can attend if they wish.
More than 3,800 such funerals were carried out across the UK last year, costing councils an average of £1,403.
Birmingham City Council in West Midlands spent the most last year, with public health funerals costing it £990,437.
Nearly a third (31 per cent) of families who turned to their council for a public health funeral did so because they were unable to foot the bill, Royal London found.
The mutual insurer said the average cost of a basic funeral is £3,757.
Other reasons for public health funerals included the deceased having no family, and families unwilling to pay for the funeral.
The amount spent by local authorities on public health funerals in 2017-18 increased by 3.5 per cent compared with 2016-17, according to the research, based on those councils who provided data for both financial years.
What the government has said about councils paying for funerals
A Local Government Association (LGA) spokesman said: “It is a sad fact that there are thousands of people, mostly elderly, across the country with no family or friends to care for them or arrange, attend or pay for their funeral.
Public health funerals are a last resort but, where there is no-one able to pay for a funeral, councils will hold one in a respectful and dignified way.”
“Councils will try to establish whether the deceased had any religious requirements to enable them to respect their wishes in the provision of a burial or cremation.”
He continued: “Councils can recover costs from the estate; however, in some cases people will die without an estate, in which case councils will bear the full costs themselves.
“The increase in these funerals (is) an extra pressure on over-stretched council budgets which pay for them.”
He said the figures also “mask the number of funerals paid for by the NHS when people die in hospital”.
The spokesman added: “Our ageing population is growing rapidly and so is the worrying picture of isolation and loneliness across the country.”
Categories: Council taxAuthorities: Blackburn with Darwen CouncilLancashire County Council
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