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Controversy over planned crematorium cost increase.

Byline: By RHODRI CLARK Western Mail

A steep rise in funeral costs at a crematorium will have a big impact on bereaved families in one of the poorest counties of Wales, it was claimed yesterday. Gwynedd Council is planning a 28% increase in the basic cremation fee at Bangor crematorium, to make the facility self-financing. Residents of neighbouring Anglesey - who have no crematorium in their county - may struggle to pay the bills because they face a surcharge of 35%.

People in Menai Bridge are less than two miles from Bangor crematorium but have to pay the surcharge, while people in Aberdyfi, nearly 50 miles away as the crow flies, do not.

The 35% surcharge applies to cremation of any dead person who resided outside present-day Gwynedd. Residents of Llanfairfechan, Capel Curig and other nearby communities in Conwy are also affected but have the option of cremation in Colwyn Bay.

Albert Owen, Labour MP for Ynys Mn, said he would take up the matter.

This year cremation at Bangor costs pounds 185, before VAT, for Gwynedd residents. Next year's proposed fee is pounds 237. There are additional charges for use of the organ, a medical certificate, hire of the chapel and other services - all of which are set to increase for 2005-2006.

The 35% surcharge would leave Anglesey families having to pay pounds 320 for a cremation.

A further surcharge for cremation on Saturday mornings would take their basic payment to pounds 468, before VAT.

Bangor funeral director Richard Davies of H O Davies said, 'These costs should be the same for everyone, whether they live in Anglesey, Llanfairfechan or Gwynedd. It's a service for the area.'

He said bereaved relatives would be unhappy with the 28% rise in the basic fee.

'The cost is high enough as it is. If they put the fee up, people will start to go to Colwyn Bay and other places. If Bangor crematorium relied only on people from Gwynedd, it wouldn't pay.'

A Gwynedd Council spokesman said many councils were seeking to make crematoria self-financing.

'It has long been the practice to add a percentage onto the standard cremation fees at Bangor crematorium when a service is provided for those outside Gwynedd. This addition is made to reflect the fact that the service is provided at a cost to the ratepayer.

'Even with the proposal to set the fees to cover the day-to-day running costs, Gwynedd ratepayers will still be contributing towards the costs of the service. The crematorium does need regular maintenance and upgrade of equipment and since 1996 these substantial costs have fallen on the ratepayers of Gwynedd.'

Environmental standards at crematoria were soon to be tightened, creating a need for major works at Bangor.

Gwyn Morris Jones, Gwynedd's head of municipal services, said workload at the crematorium had increased for various reasons, including the Shipman report, and a fifth full-time staff member was needed.

The inquiry into serial-killer GP Harold Shipman found that safeguards by medical referees at the crematoria involved were ineffective and standards have now been tightened across the UK.

Bangor crematorium now handles up to 1,020 cremations a year. Mr Jones said 970 per year would be a reasonable total, with 44% of the deceased from outside Gwynedd.

He said Aberystwyth crematorium charged a basic fee of pounds 330, including the cost of the organist and medical certificate, while cremations at Colwyn Bay cost pounds 250, without the organist and certificate. There was no additional fee for people from Gwynedd or other counties to use the Colwyn Bay facility.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 16, 2004
Words:592
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