BEREAVED families in Harrogate face the third highest cost of cremation in England and Wales.
A basic cremation is now £672, the most expensive in Yorkshire and almost £200 more than the cost in Hull.
The figures have sparked concern as bereaved families have little choice but to pay the price stipulated by their local authority. Councils review and agree their prices at the start of each financial year.
Alex Bird, chief officer of Age UK North Yorkshire, said: “We do have contact with bereaved elderly people who have perhaps lost a partner and are shocked by how much it now costs.
“Until it affects you, many people don’t realise how much the prices have increased.
“It’s very sad when sometimes you hear from people who have put money aside, but when it actually comes to it they find it isn’t anywhere near enough.
“Age UK has actually now started offering pre-paid funeral packages to try to deal with exactly this problem – so that you can rest assured that everything is already sorted out and paid for.”
Harrogate Borough Council said it had been investing in an array of new facilities and insisted it still offered value for money.
Coun Nick Brown, cabinet member with responsibility for its bereavement service, said the council operated a first-class service, as recognised by a gold standard from the Charter for the Bereaved.
He said: “This undoubtedly reflects our policy of investing in the service, something our residents have told us is important to them. The council’s fees and charges are spread across all the bereavement service which, as well as the only crematorium in the district, includes 10 cemeteries and the responsibility for maintaining 13 closed churchyards.
“I am comfortable that our charges provide value for money for our residents and ensure that the facilities are maintained at the highest level.
“Costs have gone up and some of that is due to external pressures such as rising energy charges and Government legislation.”
He added that Harrogate had been one of the first councils in the country to bring in measures to make a 50 per cent reduction in mercury emission by this year, in line with Government rules from 2005.
The council is also building a new £200,000 cemetery in Ripon, which will provide residents with local burial provision for at least the next 100 years, as the current cemetery is nearly at capacity.
In addition, it has recently invested in an extension to Knaresborough’s cemetery and undertaken footpath resurfacing, drainage and landscaping there.
Council leader Don Mackenzie told the Advertiser: “I never like to see any of the services being above average cost, but I think that the service we provide for cremation is second to none.”
Cremation remains the cheapest option for bereaved families, chosen following more than two-thirds of deaths in the UK.
In Britain, the average cost of basic cremation – without any additional expenses, – is now £546, up from £252 a decade ago.