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Plans to double fees for internment of ashes
BICESTER is currently one of the cheapest places in the county to find your final resting place, but not for much longer.
The town council wants to bring charges in line with other local authorities like Witney and Didcot, which could mean sharp rises on the way.
The council’s environment committee has recommended plans to at least double fees for interment of ashes, burial and monuments on graves, and in one case put the price up by an enormous 614 per cent.
It comes months after the council was forced into a U-turn after it tried to debate the issue behind closed doors.
The council say it is the first rise in a decade and is necessary to cover costs.
The increases would bring Bicester broadly in line with towns of comparable size such as Witney and Didcot, but would still remain cheaper than Oxford or Banbury.
Among the fees set to rise is interment of ashes, more than doubling from £25 to £70. Fees for monuments and inscriptions fees are going up from between £22.50 and £50 to £90.
Also going up is exclusive right of burial on a plot at the cemetery in St Edburg’s churchyard.
Fees are currently between £35 and £125, but this will be replaced by a standard £250 per plot, a maximum rise of 614 per cent.
The council says the fee covers a 99-year lease and is the equivalent of £2.53 a year or less than 1p a day.
The fees have to be agreed by the full council, but if approved, could come into force from January 1.
Opposition councillor Les Sibley (Labour) was a lone objector to the rise when it was discussed at the meeting on Monday. He believes any increase should be phased in.
Mr Sibley said: “If the council is carrying out an admin function it must cover its costs, but I don’t think 120 per cent increase is really taking on board the current financial situation.
“I can see the case for a small or stepped increase over so many years, but to do this in one go is out of order.
“I would urge the people of Bicester to let their views be known.”
He said cemetery maintenance was already covered from the town council precept.
But environment committee chairman Lynn Pratt said: “Our financial advisors recommended our charges were revised to make them more equitable with charges made by other authorities.
“We would still be below the average to comparative authorities but would begin to bridge the gap.”
Cllr Dave Magee said: “It’s my understanding at the moment we are almost making a loss.”
Cllr Richard Mould pointed out the current cemetery was running out of space and the council faced “significant cost in the future to acquire a new site for a cemetery”.
He said: “We do have to bite the bullet and I don’t think we have any choice.”
And Cllr Jim Tucker said: “The fact that there’s not been an increase for 10 years certainly says the council has borne the entire cost of the labour costs over the years.”
The burial fees exclude grave digging, which is carried out by the undertaker.
The proposals are due to be discussed again at a policy committee meeting next month before being decided at a full council meeting on a date to be confirmed.
BREAKDOWN OF CHARGES
Interment of ashes
Bicester: Currently £25, proposal is for £70
Banbury: From £30 for a child to £350 for family of five
Oxford: Standard fee of £180
Exclusive rights of burial (99-year lease of plot and maintenance)
Bicester: Currently cremated remains £35, children’s section under 12 £50, and general section £125. Proposal is for standard fee of £250 per plot.
Banbury: £150 for a child under 12, to £600 in the general section
Oxford: From £250 for a child and £680 in the general section
Kidlington: £90 children under 12 and over 12/adults £180
Witney: £76 to £203
Didcot: £70 to £200