·£6.3m was spent on public health funerals in 2018/19 by councils in the UK;
·Birmingham City Council was the top spender on public health funerals at nearly £1m in 2018/19;
·Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council in Northern Ireland spent the least on public health funerals at £250.
Royal London reveals the ten councils that spent the most and least on public health funerals in the UK in the financial year 2018/19.
The mutual insurer sent a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to 400 councils and discovered that local councils in the UK spent a total of £6.3m on public health funerals last year.
Cost to councils
Birmingham City Council spent the most on public health funerals, at nearly £1m (£967,658) last year. The council also arranged 387 public health funerals, which was the highest number according to the research. Cornwall Council had the second highest spend with around three quarters of a million (£744,963) being spent.
Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, in Northern Ireland spent the least on public health funerals in 2018/19. Its total spend was £250.
Public health funeral postcode lottery
The research also reveals the huge difference in the amounts spent on individual public health funerals.
Cornwall Council, for example, spent £7,450 on average compared to the UK average of £1,507 in 2018/19. The reason for the higher than average spend is because the local authority goes above and beyond what would be expected from a simple public health funeral. This includes collection of the deceased, a basic coffin and a hearse as part of the funeral.
Two in five (38%) public health funerals were carried out by councils because the deceased had no family, making it the most common reason. The second most common reason was that the deceased’s family were unable to pay for the funeral (29%).
Louise Eaton-Terry, funeral cost expert at Royal London said:
“Councils are continuing to take on the increasing cost of public health funerals for individuals who, sadly, have no family. The research also shows that families who are unable to afford the cost of a funeral for their loved one are turning to their local council for help.
“Whilst each council has a duty to arrange a funeral in these circumstances, it’s interesting to see the difference in spend on public health funerals by local authorities across the UK. Some councils are going above and beyond arranging a simple funeral while others do not allow families to attend the funeral. This is why we are calling for legislation on minimum standards for public health funerals to ensure everyone can, at the very least, attend the funeral and collect their loved one’s ashes.”
Royal London has published a paper revealing the local councils in the UK that do not return ashes to families following a public health funeral, the councils that charge for ashes to be returned to families and the councils that do not allow family members to attend a public health funeral.
Notes to Editors
- Royal London sent a Freedom of Information request to 400 local councils on 15/07/19 and received responses from 383, with 17 councils not responding to the FOI.
- Local councils will try to recover the cost of a public health funeral from the deceased’s estate.
- Cornwall Council’s procedures for a public health funeral can be found here: https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/media/36711667/public-health-funerals-factsheet.pdf
- Royal London published the councils who do not allow families to attend public health funerals or return ashes.
About Royal London:
Royal London is the largest mutual life insurance, pensions and investment company in the UK, with assets under management of £139 billion, 8.6 million policies in force and 4,348 employees. Figures quoted are as at 30 June 2020.