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North East councils spend almost [pounds sterling]500,000 on hundreds of paupers' funerals; A Freedom of Information request as revealed the truth behind pauper's funeral in our region.

Byline: Sean Seddon

The staggering cost of funerals for those who don't have enough to guarantee them a decent send off has been revealed.

North East councils spent almost [pounds sterling]500,000 on paupers' funerals for more than 450 of the neediest members of society.

Nationally it was reported by the BBC that councils had spent [pounds sterling]5.4m last year alone.

When a person does not have the necessary funds or relatives able to pay for a burial, local authorities step in to provide dignity in death.

There has been a rise in the number of paupers' funerals in recent years, which one North East MP has linked to austerity and poverty levels.

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A Freedom of Information request has revealed how often council's have been called on to provide funerals since the 2015/16 financial year.

Sunderland City Council spent more than any other North East council [pounds sterling]131,371 on 79 funerals but it is not clear how much was recovered through the estates of those who had died.

The council declined to comment.

Northumberland County Council had the second highest level of expenditure at [pounds sterling]129,800 which covered 102 funerals with the number of grants rising from 22 in 2016 to 40 last year.

A spokesperson said: "Following a death, if there are no relatives willing or able to make funeral arrangements, we may have a statutory duty to help.

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"We work in a sympathetic manner, making all the appropriate funeral arrangements."

Newcastle City Council spent [pounds sterling]110,932 on 148 funerals with the figure slowly growing from 42 a year in 2017 to 49 from April 1 2018 to March 31 this year, while Durham County Council spent [pounds sterling]49,226 on 48 funerals.

While North Tyneside spent [pounds sterling]23,343, South Tyneside spent [pounds sterling]21,016 on 27 funerals and Gateshead spent [pounds sterling]17,236 on 24 funerals.

Overall, North East taxpayers footed a [pounds sterling]482,924 bill for paupers' funerals.

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Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said: "I think this is undoubtedly another consequence of austerity which has hit parts of the country like the North East harder than others.

"There's no doubt that there's a rising trend here and the Government needs to start taking poverty more seriously.

"It doesn't matter who you are or what your social standing is, every single person in one of the richest countries in the world in the 21st century deserves a decent dispatch into the next life and it's a disgrace that sometimes councils need to step in to allow that."

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The cost of funeral's for the region's poorest has been revealed

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Publication:The Chronicle (Newscastle upon Tyne, England)
Date:Aug 27, 2019
Words:494
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