Undertakers feast on misery, situation normal

Charles 8 Comments

There’s a story in the Scottish Daily Mail, 7 June, that exemplifies very well the misinformation and scaremongering that are characteristic of media treatment of funerals in the UK. Here it is: 

LOCAL authorities and funeral directors are making money out of family misery, with ‘the cost of dying’ reaching thousands of pounds in Scotland, according to a trade union.

The GMB union said funeral charges would come as ‘a real shock to many in Scotland’.

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow councils charge about £2,000 for burials. Other councils are not far behind, with South Lanarkshire, East Dunbartonshire and Perth and Kinross all charging more than £1,500.

Even the cheaper option of cremation is almost £1,500 in Edinburgh and more than £1,000 in Glasgow, South Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross, Aberdeen and Fife.

Total UK funeral costs average more than £7,000.

GMB Scotland secretary Harry Donaldson said: ‘ Someone is making a lot of money out of people’s bereavement. At a time when the cost of living occupies most peoples concerns, it will be a real shock to many in Scotland that the cost of dying is so high.

‘Few people have any idea of how much even a simple burial or cremation actually costs.’

Here come the facts:

The average established funeral home owner earns between £30,000–50,000 a year. Have I got that about right? 

The cost of cremation in Edinburgh is, actually, £594–675.

The £7,000 cost is the one put about by Sun Life to frighten people into buying financial products.  It bundles all sorts of extraneous stuff like probate. The cost of a cremation funeral is way under half of that (with the odd dishonourable exception). 

Burial charges are the bargain of all time. What’s the real cost of a grave once you’ve factored in maintenance and mowing for ever? £14 million, anyone? 

The funeral industry isn’t great at news management, too often finding itself in reactive mode. Some players let the side down badly, too. Co-operative Funeralcare is in the news again today for burying the wrong bodyagain. Some funeral celebrants let the side down  too. If you’ve a few mins to spare, watch this promo film by an outfit called the Fellowship of Independent Celebrants. It may have a regrettable whiff of ‘making money out of family misery’. 


  1. Charles

    I have recently returned from presenting a two day funeral training course in Stirling. While I was there I picked up a local newspaper and there was an article about burial costs in Stirling increasing by I think it was 150% in one year. The local council explained that this increase in burial costs was due to the council having to cut it’s budget and could not be avoided.

  2. Charles

    Thanks for finding this, Charles; a classic case of manipulated statistics. Having said that, I have always had a high regard for the work done by the people at AXA whose material (as opposed to any spin put upon it) is exemplary.
    Over the years I have spent a great deal of time trying to get an accurate perception of rising costs to both the print and broadcast media. My own conclusion is that the only fair way to do this is to study and compare basic funeral costs. Most people will spend a bit more by way of floral tributes, newspaper announcements, and so on, but those are purely discretionary. The problem with drawing conclusions based on anything over and above the ‘basic’ is where does one stop? Any reasonable person would say that the cost of funerals such as Margaret Thatcher’s should be excluded from the mix. But what about the funeral cortège I saw last week – Belgian Blacks, a fleet of limos &c. The flowers and casket alone would have cost well north of £5,000. One could be accused of manipulating figures if it were ignored, but its inclusion would play its part in distortion.
    Just when you think that you’ve got your head around all this there is the added fact that Local Authorities have themselves confused the issue, particularly over the last 60 years, by systematically manoeuvring burial and cremation charges to favour the latter thus easing their land space problem.

  3. Charles

    It seems fairly clear to me that most local authorities have seen the local cemetery and crematorium as a good source of extra revenue, more so in troubled times. Rises have been extortionate in places.

    Cemeteries are of course a liability – the crematorium Is often used to help meet the cost of maintaining closed cemeteries where future ‘new’ revenue is not possible.

    Where local authorities have increased fees, inevitably private companies owning crematoria have done the same.

    On top of this, the real double-whammy has been the large group funeral director, increasing funeral charges to an astonishing level. In my view, these big group businesses have unwittingly encouraged competition.

    If our friends (the funeral giants) think a simple funeral is really ‘worth’ £3,000 plus, then aspiring potential new entrant FD’s are bound to start believing she/he could do the same job for significantly less dosh? As this happens more and more, and it will, I expect the bigger groups to step up their demand for regulation. How else can they fight local competition in the internet age? They certainly will not be reducing their charges.

  4. Charles

    exactly David

    and………..gawd yet another tale of blundering by Funeralcare – as I’ve said on here before this NEVER (apparently) happens with Dignity

    this is, what the heaven knows how many times that F’care have fouled up, in this sort of circumstance…………and people bemoan when I take a dig at F’care………….over priced, over hyped and darn right inefficient (but it will not stop George, David and Sam……..on their crusade, will it?)


  5. Charles

    David, also said:-

    “….How else can they fight local competition in the internet age?…”

    errr……….and as I’ve said on here before, there is 100% resistance from the large four Groups to mention any aspect of pricing on their respective websites……so what happens, many Indy’s now include in a totally transparent way, their pricing……..it’s all there, so why the stance of the big boys….?

    there can only be one conclusion. Knowing fully well that they will always be more expensive, they’re clearly working on getting the punter into their shops first……….knowing that in 90% on all cases, people will not go elsewhere……



  6. Charles

    Just watched the celebrant clip, yes it does rather concentrate on the financial side of being a celebrant. The figures quoted seem high, up to 10 funerals a week at up to £225 per funeral. How much time can you spend with a family if you are taking 10 funerals a week?

    1. Charles

      Well, James, with me it averages 19 hours work all told per funeral, that’s 190 hours for 10 funerals… hang on, what’s 24×7..168hours in a week, that’d leave me just over three hours a day to sleep, eat and try to spend my £2,250.

      I’m happy staying poor.

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