BEREAVEMENT groups have hit out at a council after it approved plans to almost double the cost of cremation plots.
Labour-run West Lothian Council is to increase prices from £150 to £291 over the next two years – almost £100 more than Edinburgh City Council charges now.
The rise is one of a swathe of hefty rises set out for services after councillors backed a £406 million spending plan until 2015.
The authority has now been accused of unfairly targeting families by putting them under financial pressure when they are grieving. Dorothy Maitland, operations manager for bereavement charity Sands Lothian, said the NHS could also face extra costs. She said: “It’s putting more pressure on people who are going through a bad time anyway.
A spokesman for Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland stressed that the voluntary organisation did not know the financial circumstances facing the council, but said: “We know that many people affected by grief and the associated stresses of a bereavement can find the rising overall costs of a funeral – and the pressure to spend significant sums on one – an additional source of stress at a very difficult time.”
SNP councillor and former council leader Peter Johnston said that increases had been approved in the second year of the two-year budget in an attempt to keep them hidden. He said: “They’re trying to just do this on the quiet and hope that nobody will notice.”
Fees have also been introduced on other council services, with charges placed on pest control, trade waste recycling and a £1-a-week fee for alarm systems for vulnerable people.
Other fee increases over the next two years include the hourly cost of using a school classroom climbing from £7.90 to £19.50, and hire costs for junior players to use council-run tennis courts increasing from £2.80 to £5.75 an hour.
Commercial businesses will also have to pay £1957 for a giant waste bin in 2014-15, up from £898.
West Lothian Council insisted its charges for services were still much lower than those of other Scottish authorities, and blamed budgetary restrictions for the increases.
Council leader John McGinty added: “This was a tough budget set against a backdrop of cuts in council funding from the SNP government.
“West Lothian Council has been given £14.8m less than it needs to keep going over the next two years. The money we got from the Scottish Government does not even keep pace with inflation and does not provide anything for the growth in demand for services in what is one of the fastest-growing areas in Scotland.”