Council paid nearly £250k for Edinburgh's '˜harrowing' funerals

Nearly 250 Edinburgh residents had a funeral paid for by the taxpayer in 2015/16, figures have revealed.

Wednesday, 17th January 2018, 6:00 am
Edinburgh City Council paid for 250 pauper funerals in 2015/16

Edinburgh City Council forked out more than £243,000 for people who have died with no family or the family are unable to cover the cost of the funeral.

The Capital hosted the second highest amount of “pauper funerals” in the UK with 247, behind Birmingham with 376 costing a massive £694,534.

Local authorities collectively spent £4 million on public health funerals in 2015/16, an increase of 12 per cent over the previous five years.

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Ian Grimwade, of Cyrenians, a charity working with the homeless and vulnerable, conducted many pauper funerals in his time as a parish minister.

He said: “Having conducted these services, I know how harrowing they are. I’ve done some services when there is just me and the undertaker in the room.

“This is as much about the trouble Edinburgh has with poverty and isolation than anything else. Many people have died through poverty and isolation in the UK and in Edinburgh. Cyrenians does a lot of work tackling this issue.

“We try to build relationships with residents to reduce isolation and give advice so they can become healthier people and lift them out of poverty.

“Our services include setting up community clubs and improving their social aspects to avoid people ending up in this unfortunate position and dying alone.”

The information has been collated by mutual insurer Royal London via a freedom of information request with 3,784 funerals taking place across 260 local authorities.

Royal London said the total cost of public health funerals to councils across the UK had increased by 36 per cent over the past five years. It said those in the West Midlands faced the highest cost, with more than £900,000 being spent on these funerals in 2015/16.

Louise Eaton-Terry, a funeral cost expert at Royal London, said: “It is always upsetting when the deceased has no family to arrange a funeral, or when their family simply cannot afford one.

“In these cases, local councils take on the responsibility of paying for a funeral and it’s evident that councils are facing increasing pressure to accommodate the rising number of public health funerals in the UK.”

The top 10 councils that hosted and spent the most on public health funerals in 2015/16, according to Royal London’s findings are listed. The figures are based only on those councils that provided it with the data requested.

1. Birmingham City Council, 376, £694,534

2. City of Edinburgh, 247, £243,667

3. Bristol City Council, 136, £222,962

4. Leeds City Council, 56, £97,196.20

5. Fife Council, 82, £73,254.31

6. Perth and Kinross Council, 38, £72,766

7. London Borough of Lewisham, 67, £59,576

8. London Borough of Bromley, 20, £58,098.18

9. Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, 30, £57,002

10. Coventry City Council, 46, £56,858.99