How much does cremation cost in 2022?

With well over 3/4 of British funerals now culminating in cremation, and with the relentless promotion of direct cremation on mainstream TV channels, we thought it was about time to look at the cost of being cremated in 2022. 

The Competition and Markets Authority’s Funeral Market Investigation Order 2021 mandated that all crematoria must publish their prices, which has made this research possible (even if not easy!) – we are extremely grateful for this new transparency.

Some important provisos  before we start – for the purpose of this blog post, and to avoid completely drowning in numbers, we are only focusing on the cremation fees here, not the full price for a funeral. Once funeral director fees are added on, the total costs will, of course, be significantly higher. 

We have looked at the price charged for a standard adult cremation, with a ceremony at 11.00am or thereabouts, where varying prices are shown for different times of the day. 

We aren’t comparing the multiple different prices for direct cremations, or ‘attended direct cremations’, we’re simply looking at the standard cremation fees published by the crematoria companies.

There are lots of numbers and links, but we’ll try to make it easy to follow – we’ll break it up with some gorgeous photos by Rachel Wallace taken at the wonderful Mortlake Crematorium, run by a collective of four London Boroughs (and where cremation fees are among the lowest 10% in the country!) 

The first and most obvious finding is that there is an absolutely enormous disparity across the country. You could almost describe it as a postcode lottery. 

The tremendously useful league table from The Cremation Society of Great Britain (CMS) shows an astonishing range of fees; the 2021 fee for a single standard adult cremation ranged from £392 to £1,100,  a difference of £708. 

Citizens of Belfast have access to the lowest cremation fees in the United Kingdom, with the local authority run City of Belfast Crematorium currently charging residents of the city a very reasonable £408. But back across the Irish Sea, for those of us in the rest of the UK, things are very different.

The CMS league table tells us that there were 312 crematoria operating in 2021, and of these, (excluding Belfast), 90% of them charged more than £700, while the latest cremation statistics from the same source show that the average total cremation charge in the UK in January 2022 was £867.75.

The crematorium with the highest standard fee is the independently owned Parkgrove Crematorium in Angus, Scotland, where the fee for an adult cremation is £1,100.

Head south to Oxfordshire and a ceremony at a ‘premium time’ (12.00, 13.00 or 14.00) will cost you even more – £1,140 for a lunch time ceremony at either of the two Memoria run crematoria – North Oxfordshire Crematorium and South Oxfordshire Crematorium

Now, it’s an interesting thing that there are three crematoria serving Oxford and the surrounding area – all privately owned, the above two owned by Memoria, and a third, Oxford Crematorium, owned and run by Dignity PLC (now rebranded as The Crematorium and Memorial Group). A 60 minute ‘slot’ at any of these three crematoria will cost a minimum of £1,070 (at the Dignity crematorium), while the two Memoria crematoria both charge £1,090 for an 11am booking.

Down in the seaside town of Brighton, however, there are two crematoria, one local authority run, the other privately owned. Woodvale Crematorium is run by Brighton & Hove City Council, and charges £715 for a cremation, while half a mile away, Dignity operate The Downs Crematorium and somehow manages to undercut the local authority with a cremation fee of £678. A whopping discount of £392 compared with the Dignity price of £1,070 for a cremation in Oxford – or at nine of their other crematoria across the country.

Prices at the remaining Dignity crematoria (there are 46 in total) range between £675 at Stockport Crematorium (that’s a one-off, the lowest price charged by any crematorium in the group, and perhaps reflective of the fact that there are 13 other crematoria serving the Greater Manchester area) to £1,060, which curiously is the fee charged by both of the Dignity owned crematoria which serve the people of Norwich, Earlham Crematorium and St. Faiths Crematorium

No other crematoria are located in the city, so to find a lower cost cremation fee in the Norwich area you’d need to travel half an hour west to the privately owned Breckland Crematorium (£895), head 23 miles north to Cromer Crematorium, operated by the Westerleigh Group (£1,040), take a 50 mile round trip to the local authority run Great Yarmouth Crematorium (£895) or drive a similar distance to the Memoria crematorium Waveney Memorial Park (£945). 

Dignity aren’t the only company that appear to be sensitive to the pricing of nearby crematoria – over in Retford, in Nottinghamshire, a 11.00am cremation at Memoria’s Barnby Moor Crematorium is priced at £775,while the Westerleigh owned Babworth Crematorium, two and a half miles away, charges £825. 

These are among the lowest prices charged by either operator; all of Memoria’s other crematoria charge between £930 – £1,090, while Westerleigh has one crematorium charging less (Aylesbury Vale Crematorium at £699) and 35 other crematoria charging between £850 – £1,115. (The Westerleigh crematorium at Aylesbury Vale is just three miles from Bierton Crematorium which is operated by three local councils and charges a cremation fee of £700.)

It is clear that a large part of the cremation fee charged by crematoria is the hire fee for the ceremony space, as there are significantly discounted fees for early morning and unattended cremations – most crematoria charge between £350 – £500 for a direct cremation, but as the majority of people still choose to hold a ceremony, the disparity across the country in prices of the cremation fees that families are required to pay is shocking.

Setting aside the coincidence of (extraordinarily) similar fees to close competitors or sister crematoria in some locations, the range of prices charged by the same operators in different areas and the very significant difference between the lowest and highest fees around the country, the situation of crematorium fees is more concerning in the light of initiatives from two of the cremation companies:

Pure Cremation Ltd (they of the cutesy daytime TV adverts) operate Charlton Park Crematorium, which is where the cremations arranged under their nationwide direct cremation service are carried out. 

The crematorium can also be used by families not employing Pure Cremation, and prices range from £450 for a direct cremation to £900 for an hour in the ceremony room. 

So far, so par for the course. Until you see the advertisements placed by Pure Cremation in the trade magazines for the funeral sector.

What the company is offering to funeral directors that partner with them is a preferential cremation fee  – £250 where the funeral director delivers the coffin to Charlswood Park, and collects the cremated remains by appointment,  £350 where the Pure Cremation team collect the coffin from the funeral home and return the cremated remains by hand.

The copy on their website page for partners states ‘Some people only want the simplest direct cremation at the lowest possible cost but would prefer to be looked after by a local firm. Our low cremation fees mean that you can say “Yes” to serving these families at a price that they feel good about… yet still achieves a healthy margin for you.’

This sounds excellent from a client’s point of view; a local funeral director service, an efficient direct cremation and the cremated remains returned to them. All at the lowest possible price (assuming that the saving on the cremation fee is passed on by the funeral company concerned, of course).

It also makes it clear that the actual cost of cremating an adult is less than £250.

Otherwise, Pure Cremations wouldn’t be offering this service at this price.

Memoria appear to have been similarly struck by inspiration at the idea of partnering with funeral directors, although they have a slightly different take on it. They are also offering discounted cremation fees to select funeral directors – £300 in this case for direct cremations, £400 for small, attended funeral ceremonies before 11.00am.

A letter from former owner and current Group CEO, Howard Hodgson, landed on the doormats of funeral directors recently, notifying them of an upcoming Memoria TV advertising campaign promoting ‘affordable, local and attended cremation funeral services as an alternative to direct cremation’, and inviting them to become a Memoria Brand Partner.

According to the FAQ’s on the website, a Memoria Brand Partner is ‘a funeral director who works exclusively with Memoria to offer the attended local funeral service – the Personal Funeral Service – to bereaved families as an alternative to Direct Cremation. Memoria is also to be their exclusive provider of their direct cremations.’

Brand Partners will benefit from ‘preferential cremation fees for both Direct Cremation (£300) and the Personal Funeral Service (£400)’ as well as branded marketing material and the backing of Memoria TV and digital advertising at no cost to their business.

Somewhat less appealing to most funeral directors, perhaps, is the fact that Memoria will, as part of the contractual arrangement required in exchange for the preferential cremation fees, set the total price of the Direct Cremation and Personal Funeral Service – £990 and £1,395 respectively. 

It seems to us that this initiative by Memoria is not just an attempt to push back at the rise of direct cremation by promoting low cost, attended funerals, but it is also an attempt to enlist sufficient funeral directors to carry out the logistics of the ‘arranging’ elements of a funeral by enticing them to sign up as exclusive partners with discounted cremation fees. (Something similar was attempted by Memoria’s sister company, Low Cost Funerals, now rebranded as Affordable Funerals and listed at Companies House with the same directors as Memoria. Affordable Funerals already offer Direct Cremations and Personal Funeral Services at the same prices as those that we’ll see advertised by Memoria and their partners over the coming months).

The prices charged to non-affiliated funeral directors for direct cremations are listed as £450 at each of the Memoria crematoria, 50% higher than the £300 fee that Brand Partners will be charged for each cremation. 

For small funeral directors, this is a significant amount to offset as part of their total package price. It could render it impossible for non-affiliated funeral directors to compete in price against companies who sign up as a Memoria Brand Partner – the former would have to provide all the services involved in organising a cremation for £540 after paying the £450 cremation fee, while the Brand Partner would have £690 left to cover the costs of overheads, staff, vehicles, coffin supply, insurance and so forth. 

Effectively, Memoria’s initiative could make it impossible for small funeral businesses to offer direct cremations at a competitive rate in areas where there are no other crematoria available and where other funeral directors are partnering with Memoria and receiving discounted cremation fees. If this happens, then the ultimate loser will be the bereaved people whose choices will have been diminished.

So, what have we learned from this long (and possibly quite boring) deep dive into cremation fees? Mainly the following:

  • That private companies are doing what they are supposed to do, i.e., making money.
  • That an individual cremation can be carried out for under £250, with the company providing the service still making money from it.
  • And that bereaved families are being charged an extraordinarily huge amount of money for the room hire for their funeral ceremonies. More than £800 an hour in some cases!

Armed with this knowledge, what can the public do?

We recommend – as always – asking a lot of questions before committing yourself to making funeral arrangements with any company. Think about what matters to you, make a list of things that you want to know, then call funeral directors and ask them. 

If you are planning to have a funeral ceremony prior to cremation, you could explore the possibility of hiring a venue for the ceremony then arranging for the cremation to take place separately, perhaps early the following day at a reduced rate. 

You may find that you can hire a village hall for the whole day for a ceremony and a reception for less than the cost of a 40-minute ceremony in a crematorium chapel. Or your local pub might be willing to let you book it for the day and have a ceremony in the garden. Maybe you or a relative have space to hold a ceremony at home? You do not need to be confined to holding a ceremony at a crematorium. Once you begin to think of alternative places and spaces, all kinds of possibilities may occur to you.

You could enquire about other crematoria rather than the one closest to you – do a Google search for ‘crematorium in *your area’. Look at the crematoria websites, they all list prices for both funeral services and for direct cremations, and many will show different fees for different times of the day. Often, local authority owned and run crematoria will charge less than the privately owned ones, although not always.

All funeral directors are required to list the fees of their local crematoria on their Standardised Price List which must be shown on their website, so you may be able to get an idea of costs in your area by checking these, but then double check with the crematorium itself in case fees have changed recently.

You may be considering a direct cremation? If so, be particularly wary of companies advertising themselves as direct cremation providers online. 

We will be writing about this subject in detail in a dedicated blog post in the coming weeks, but for now we can summarise by recommending you always approach a company with a physical presence, a proper funeral director rather than an internet-based provider. Ask them exactly where the cremation will take place, and when. Ask for a breakdown of their advertised ‘direct cremation’ fee. Ask them if they and their staff will take the coffin to the crematorium, or if this part of their service is subcontracted. Ask them if any part of their service is subcontracted, and if so, to whom.

Remember, you are the client. You are paying for a service, and you have every right to know what you are paying for.

Standardised price lists for all


Regular readers of the GFG blog will know that we have been calling for transparency in the funeral sector for well over a decade.

Last month, on 16th September, a seismic shift finally occurred when the Competition and Markets Authority’s Funerals Market Investigation Order 2021 finally came into effect.

All funeral directors in the UK are now required to comply with the Order, which, among other things, requires funeral directors to display price information in a clear and prominent manner, outside their premises, inside their premises and on their websites.

The CMA have specified exactly how information must be presented, with a Standardised Price List (SPL) which must follow the layout and wording supplied by them, an Additional Options Price List and a third price list showing information provided local crematorium operators.

In addition, funeral businesses must also similarly display their Terms of Business and Disclosure of Interests, including stating the ultimate owner of the business.

At last, people looking for a funeral director to help them organise a funeral will be able to compare prices between different funeral directors with ease – at the top of the Standardised Price List there is a total figure for the funeral director’s charges for their services for an attended funeral, below which is breakdown of how this total is arrived at.

The costs for an unattended funeral must also be displayed, and typical figures for burial and cremation fees must also be shown.

It is now, in theory at least, straightforward to compare funeral directors on the prices they charge, which will help people to understand the likely fees that they will be asked to pay – a hugely welcome development after years of opacity and confusion in how prices are displayed by varying businesses.

What we need to see now – and what the CMA will be monitoring – is total compliance from all funeral directors. Seven days after the Order came into effect, a disturbing number of companies seem not to have understood that this new situation is mandatory – we noted a number of well-established and prominent businesses who do not have a Standardised Price List on their website this weekend, while other premises appear to think displaying an A4 size poster at floor level in their window is complying with the Order.

It is incumbent on the funeral trade associations, head offices of large corporate companies and all independent funeral directors to ensure that members and branches are all compliant with the Order.

There is absolutely no excuse for not doing so, and there will be penalties incurred by those funeral directors who continue to fail to provide the information required.

Incidentally, we would add that it is also incumbent on the trade associations to make sure their own funeral houses are in order before using the CMA’s stipulations to attempt to hold businesses outside of their jurisdiction to account – and offering membership as protection.

The Good Funeral Guide have required all our Recommended funeral directors have their prices online for years, so, even though it has been onerous for firms who have always been transparent to follow requirements imposed because of the failure of the sector to be open about prices and ownership, we warmly welcome the CMA’s intervention.

It is regretful that this has been necessary. It is regretful that there still appear to be companies that don’t feel bereaved people deserve the courtesy of knowing what prices will be charged before they start making arrangements for a funeral. It is more than regretful, in fact, it is shameful.

If you come across funeral directors who aren’t displaying the mandatory documents, or if you happen upon a funeral director website that doesn’t have the Standardised Price List just one click away from the home page, do please let the CMA know, in confidence if you prefer. They are keen to hear about companies who are not complying.

The CMA Funerals Team can be contacted on

Funeral prices

Our recent blog post about Simplicity Cremations, the offshoot of Dignity Funerals, elicited this response from a disapproving reader:

‘This rattled me. “Dignity’s prices are too high and they are the cause of funeral poverty. Big bad dignity”. “Dignity lower their prices and offer a low cost cremation option. Big bad Dignity”.
Seems to me that someone has a bee in their bonnet and constantly looks for the negative.
Simplicity Cremations offers almost zero funeral director contact. The deceased is washed and dressed but that’s about it. A funeral director will arrange the Crem forms and dr’s fees but it stops there. There’s no face to face contact. Families arrange their own officiant, flowers, music and so on. The £600 odd pounds you’re quoting seems to only really cover the admin side of things, collecting and dressing the deceased, transport and a coffin. Seems fair enough.’


Let’s have a look at how the other arm of Dignity PLC (the owners of Simplicity Cremations) prices the services they offer clients.

Somehow, we don’t think that a figure of £600 odd pounds for the ‘admin side of things, collecting and dressing the deceased, transport and a coffin’  is considered ‘fair enough’ by the Dignity management when it comes to charging those families who prefer ‘face to face contact’. Or the bereaved people who do what most people in this country do, go into their local funeral director rather than going online to make arrangements.

Dignity Funerals Ltd is the company which, at the last count, has 831 high street branches (all trading under their original names) It is the company that conducted 39,700 funerals in the first six months of this year.  Or an estimated 12.1% of all the funerals carried out in Britain.

And apparently, Dignity’s methods of pricing their high-street-facilitated funerals are remarkably different from those used for their on-line business.

You will be faced with a bill of significantly more than ‘£600 odd pounds’ for ‘the admin side of things, collecting and dressing the deceased, transport and a coffin’ if you walk into one of their high-street branches.

That ‘face to face contact’ seems to bump up the prices by several thousand pounds.

We collected some current price lists from Dignity branches in the London area and the South East and North of England.

Here’s what we found.

The prices shown are for Dignity’s ‘Full Service Funeral’ – i.e. a funeral on a day and time that you choose (rather than them telling you when you can have it), with a choice of coffin and the option of having the person dressed in their own clothes (rather than a ‘suitable basic gown’), the option to spend time with them at the funeral home, assistance in organising floral tributes, obituaries, service stationery and donations, and the freedom to add limousines if you want.

Or, in other words, what most people would expect a funeral director to offer.

London  South East England  North England
‘Our Service to You’* £1,705* £1,655* £1,470*
‘Our Service to the Person who has Died’* £1,045* £1,020* £1,015*
‘Your Appointed Funeral Director’* £ 720* £ 700* £ 725*
‘Our Hearses’* £ 720* £ 720* £ 620*
‘Our Limousines’ £ 252 (from) £ 252 (from) £ 175
‘Traditional’ coffin range £ 150* – £1,250 £ 150* – £1250 £ 150* – £1,250
Cardboard coffin £ 660 £ 660 £ 660
Willow coffin £1,015 £1,015 £1,105

If your eyes are glazing over at all the figures, we’ve added them up for you below. And we offer some prices from GFG Recommended Funeral Directors for comparison. (We hadn’t intended to do so, as this post is meant to be about the Dignity prices charged by different arms of the business for very similar services, but we thought comparisons with the prices of some independently owned businesses might be informative.)

We included the components with stars against them in the results table above, i.e. the charge for meeting and making the funeral arrangements, the charge for collecting and caring for the person who died, the peculiar additional charge for ‘Your Appointed Funeral Director’ (we’ve never come across a separate fee for having a funeral director appointed to you before?), and the charge for a hearse. We used the lowest priced coffin in the Dignity range, just to keep it simple, although we think that probably very few families pick the £150 option when presented with the coffin brochure, and we didn’t include embalming, even though the Dignity blurb states ‘…. as members of the National Association of Funeral Directors we recommend the peace of mind that embalming brings.’

We then checked the prices for the same or comparable service listed by independent funeral directors in the same parts of the country on our Recommended list.

Oh, and remember, these are figures for just the funeral director fees.

Cremation or burial costs, medical certificates if required (in England and Wales), and the fee for a minister or officiant will be in addition to the figures shown. Also, flowers, orders of service, limousines, placing of obituaries or other optional extras will all be extra costs. It would probably be wise to budget at least a further £1,000.

Here we go:

If you are in the London area, the Dignity price we were given is £4,340

For comparable services, Leverton & Sons would charge £2,310

From Compassionate Funerals, comparable services would cost £2,159

If you are in South East England, the Dignity price we were given is £4,095

Comparable funeral director services from Albany Funerals would cost £2,245

From Holly’s Funerals, comparable services would cost £2,131

If you are in the North of England,the Dignity price we were given is £3,980

Comparable funeral director services from Barringtons Independent Funeral Services would cost £2,150 (and include a limousine)

From Saint and Forster Funeral Directors, comparable services would cost £1,690)

Now, we know that there’s the fabled ‘face to face contact’ involved with all of the prices above. And a hearse. And visits to the chapel of rest if you want them. And a funeral director too. And staff to carry a coffin.

But what we are trying to illustrate is the VAST chasm between the prices charged for the‘admin side of things, collecting and dressing the deceased, transport and a coffin’ by the same company.

Just as a reminder, Dignity’s Simplicity Cremations ‘Attended Funeral’ costs £1,895 including cremation and doctors’ fees.

The lowest Dignity Funerals Full Service Funeral price we found cost £3,980 WITHOUT cremation and doctors’ fees.

That ‘face to face contact’, flexibility in arrangements, visits to the person who died and providing a hearse and staff at the funeral appears to add something in the region of three thousand pounds to the price.

(Now, in case anyone’s interested, the most recent Dignity Investor Presentation reports £120,100,000 revenue from their funeral services in the first 26 weeks of 2018, with Underlying Operating Profit of £42,100,000

Forty two million pounds. In six months.

The Investor Presentation is downloadable here.)

We’re sure that Dignity will be at pains to tell us that they offer a Simple Funeral for £1,995 plus third party costs.

We know this.

We also know that if you opt for a Dignity Simple Funeral: 

You will not be able to decide the date and time of the funeral, they will choose it.

You will not be able to choose a different coffin.

The person who died will not be dressed in their own clothes.

You will not be able to add a limousine if you want one.

There will not be a funeral procession.  

Payment of third party costs will be required at the time of making the arrangements, with the balance due 48 hours before the funeral.

See ‘Some important points about the Simple Funeralhere.

This restricted service is possibly not what most people would expect in return for paying a funeral director almost £2,000 for their service. Even with the face to face contact (and ‘motorised hearse’) you get with Dignity’s Simple Funeral.

You could ditch the face to face contact and the hearse, pick the day and time of your choice, have a similar coffin and save yourself around a thousand pounds (which you’d need to find for the third party costs on top of the Simple Funeral fee) by opting for a Simplicity Cremations Attended Funeral with that all-in price of £1,895.

Though this probably won’t be offered to you if you are a bereaved person who goes into a high street branch of Dignity. It’s only available online. From a company with a different name.

(Or, you could choose to use an independent funeral director instead. Ideally, one that we recommend. Look again at the prices for full, unrestricted funeral services from independent companies above.)

But to go back to the original point of this post, and to directly address the person who objects to our opinion and thinks we constantly look for the negative:

No, on balance, and with the greatest of respect, dear disgruntled reader, we don’t think it’s ‘fair enough’.

We don’t think it’s fair at all for a funeral provider to be subsidising costs for some bereaved people and charging much, much higher prices, for remarkably similar services, to other bereaved people.

Which is what appears to be happening here.

Incidentally, if you’ve read this far, you might want to have a browse through comments from some long-suffering Dignity PLC shareholders here and here, – many have seen the value of their shares crash since last year and are nervously watching the so-called ‘price war’ between Dignity and Co-operative Funeralcare, wondering how this will impact on the value of their holdings.

Some of the more optimistic appear to be hopeful that, under the lead of Paul Turner, Dignity’s new ‘Transformation Director’, the company’s performance will pick up, and the value of their holdings will start heading up from today’s level (around £10.50 a share) back towards the giddy heights of £24.60 a share just last November.

The Dignity transition programme is expected to be largely completed over a three year time frame according to that Investor Presentation. So possibly a scenario for ‘Hold’. (Or ‘Hope’.) Time will tell.

Meanwhile, according to some former and current Dignity employees, there’s a rather gloomier picture on the inside, read reviews here

Now, where’s that bonnet?

Best Low Cost Funeral Provider 2017

         Tony Foster of Fosters Funeral Directors


With the issue of funeral poverty (or funeral affordability) very much in the media, providing quality undertaking service at low cost is a goal that many businesses are aspiring to.  There were eight finalists in this category, and all provide excellent value for money for their low cost funerals.

The runner up has introduced an innovative approach to low cost funeral provision through partnership with local funeral directors, driving a change which could impact the whole funeral industry through provision of the lowest cost funerals with high quality service.

The winner was selected not only for their consistently high standards at affordable prices and their transparency of costs, but also for their determination to address often misleading information about the cost of a funeral put out by life insurance companies with vested interests by investing in an awareness raising advertising campaign on television and radio proudly comparing their prices with large corporate companies.

Winner – Fosters Funeral Directors

Runner up – Memoria Low Cost Funerals Ltd


Award photograph by Jayne Lloyd

The 2017 Good Funeral Awards were generously sponsored by Greenfield Creations

There’s an unpleasant odour emanating from somewhere..

Back in 2015, we reported on this blog about the legal skirmish between funeral plan providers Safe Hands Funeral Plans and Golden Charter – see here to refresh your memory.

A paragraph from that blog post came to mind today:

‘While the lawyers order trebles all round and get ready to enwrap both parties in litigation for as long as legally possible, the good citizens of Funeralworld tremble. A lot of heavily soiled linen looks like being washed in public. God forbid that the public learn just how much of the money they spend on a funeral plan gets divvied up among sundry predators in the form of commissions, sales and marketing costs, directors’ wages, you name it.’

Well, thanks to the wonderful world of t’internet, that very information is now available in an easy to read table, showing just how much money is taken out of the total cost of a funeral plan in non-funeral related fees. Thanks to John Taplin from Open Pre-Paid Funerals Ltd for providing this link.

Have a look here.

Or, for a quick précis, we’ll summarise a couple of the lesser known facts listed in the table for you.

  • The main providers of UK pre-paid funeral plans, namely Dignity, Golden Charter*, Golden Leaves, Avalon and Safe Hands will extract between £785.00 and £1,500.00 in ‘admin fees’ from the total amount you pay them. (Co-operative Funeralcare don’t publish the amount they charge). Editor’s note: *We have been reliably informed that where Golden Charter plans are purchased directly from a funeral director, the administration fee is much lower and the only deduction from the money you pay is £249.00.
  • If you buy a plan provided by one of those five companies from an agent working on their behalf (this could be a solicitor, a will writer, a financial advisor, a funeral director etc) then a commission payment of up to a figure between £500 and £600 is paid to them. (Co-operative Funeralcare don’t use agents, their plans are only available directly, or from their branches).
  • The money set aside within the plans provided by those five companies to cover the third party costs (crematorium fee, doctors’ fees and officiant’s fee or a contribution towards burial costs) ranges between £940 and £1,200. Co-operative Funeralcare don’t specify the amount set aside towards disbursements in their plans.
  • The value of the growth per annum of each plan is not published by any of the six plan providers listed above.
  • The growth of value of the amount set aside for third party costs for each plan is that of the Retail Price Index for five of the plan providers. Golden Leaves use the Consumer Price Index.

So, it is entirely possible that the money you pay in good faith for a funeral plan, thinking that you’re addressing the ever more hysterical annual announcements of the rising costs of funerals escalating beyond comprehension yet again, will in fact be whittled down to the bare bone when death occurs and the funeral needs to be arranged. A pocketful of cash here, a handful of cash there, all disappearing from that plan price in the direction of administration and commission before the ink is even dry on the medical certificate of the cause of death.

As an example, we were told this week about a funeral director receiving a call from one of the funeral plan providers listed above. The plan provider invited the funeral director to carry out a funeral for a plan holder who had just died. The plan holder had paid £3,595 for their funeral. It included all the traditional aspects of a funeral, collecting and caring for the person who had died, providing a coffin, dressing them and providing chapel visits, all professional assistance with the funeral, providing a hearse and a limousine and the third party costs.

So far so what, you might think. £3,595.00 sounds about ok for what is being provided?

Well, the amount that the funeral director was offered for undertaking this funeral was actually £2,445.00.

And, of that £2,445.00, £1,100.00 was allocated for the third party costs. In fact, the third party costs totalled just under £1,200.00.

So the funeral director, the one actually doing the funeral, was effectively invited to do so for £1,245.00.

That’s just £145 more than the £1,100.00 that had whistled out of the original payment to persons unknown in administration fees and commission payments.

The funeral director concerned politely declined the offer. They couldn’t make the sums add up.

The person who paid £3,595.00 for their plan and who died thinking their funeral was all sorted is none the wiser. Their family is probably none the wiser. The plan provider may have found a funeral director willing to carry out this funeral for £1,245.00 and nobody will be any the wiser.

We think it stinks.

There is a whole can of worms writhing underneath the label of ‘Funeral Plans’. Thousands are sold each year to unwitting purchasers who are seduced by lines such as ‘We Believe Your Loved Ones Shouldn’t Be Left With Any Surprise Bills’ (capital letters not our own), or ‘A pre-paid funeral plan from the UK’s largest provider ensures peace of mind for you and your family’. There’s a very nice living to be made from selling funeral plans offered by the big six providers, but not such a good one from carrying out the actual funerals involved.

If you are thinking about planning your funeral in advance, do your homework. The only plan provider that we rate is Open Pre-Paid Funerals Ltd. So highly do we rate them, we have developed our own, unique alternative to funeral plans in partnership with them. It stands apart from every other offering on the market.

It’s the GFGPlan.

GFGPlan puts your interests first. There is an administrative fee of £195.00. That’s it.  Other than that, there are no deductions whatever from the money placed in the GFG Plan pot. Zilch. Not one penny is spent on salaries, nobody gets a commission, and there are no free pens.

Read about it here.

Dignity in Blunderland

Posted by Charles

A relatively new element of the Christmas experience is the themed winter wonderland. We’ve already had our first hilarious example of 2016 in Bakewell, Derbyshire. The Sun headline captured it neatly: WINTER BLUNDERLAND. Bakewell Winter Wonderland slammed by families as ‘pile of s***’ that is ‘so bad even Santa f***** it off’. The shocking muddy conditions saw the festive event likened to the Battle of the Somme.

Bit of a downer, obviously, but not enough to sully the good name of Christmas, a festival that remains robustly evergreen. Everyone complains how expensive it is. It has no utilitarian function. We do it the same way every year, ritualistically, so we know exactly what’s going to happen and what part we’re expected to play. Yes, it’s lovely to look at. But it celebrates an event – the birth of Christ – which to most people is of no relevance. Sure, there’s always a few bah-humbuggers who opt out, hunker down and have a no-Christmas Christmas instead, but vanishingly few, and their example is not influential. No, the overwhelming majority find the money and give it the full turkey. We love Christmas. Cheap at half the price. 

If only we could say the same about the traditional funeral. It’s got most of the same ingredients as Christmas. Everyone says it costs too much. It has no utilitarian function. Its format never varies – it’s ritualistic. Everyone knows what’s going to happen and what part they are expected to play. It is undeniably eyecatching. It was once the vehicle for a Christian funeral, but to most people now that’s of no relevance. And yet, and yet, the number of people copping out and opting for a no-funeral funeral – direct disposal – is growing exponentially. People are increasingly unwilling to find the money for a trad sendoff. Why?

I mean, a ‘traditional’ funeral is a heritage cultural artefact. It can trace its origins to the heraldic funeral of the middle ages. In a country that loves its pomp and ceremony, this is the British way of death. Where did it all go wrong?

I’ll tell you. The undertakers, finding themselves caught in a spot of commercial bad weather, had a straightforward choice to make and they called it wrong. They slashed their margins and introduced cheaper alternatives to the the product we call the traditional funeral. Hardly a creative response, nor a plucky one.

Steady the Buffs. When people say that funerals are too expensive, is this what they really mean?

Listen hard and you’ll discern that what they really mean is that funerals aren’t worth what they cost. They offer poor value for money. That’s not the same as too expensive. 

The problem is not with cost, it’s with value.

Last Thursday, Dignity bottled it and launched a direct cremation service under the branding of Simplicity Cremations. There’s a lot of the usual sales bilge on the website employing words like ‘dignified’ and ‘respectful’, as you’d yawnfully expect. There’s also a Ratneresque Cruise missile strike against the traditional funeral:

A full service funeral can be an expensive occasion that takes time and effort to arrange. You’ll often need a Funeral Director and a whole team of staff to co-ordinate the required services, vehicles and personnel, book the time with the crematorium, deal with paperwork, manage tributes and announcements and ensure everything runs smoothly on the day. And then there are also additional costs for items such as flowers, service cards, music, maybe a memorial or headstone and often a wake. It will usually take quite a few face-to-face meetings to arrange, not to mention several thousands of pounds.

In other words, yep, our flagship product is a bunch of crap. Too much time, too much effort, too much money. Don’t buy it.

Why would Dignity do that? These are clever people. Why diss the product that yields the best margin? This is industrial strength, Santa-killing insanity.

On the same day that Dignity was raising its cowardly white flag, Team GFG was, by happy coincidence, in London meeting a high-level ceremonialist with excellent connections and a strong belief that all is not lost. Because, dammit, we’re not giving up on the traditional funeral. We think the thing to do is to fix it – fix this issue around value.

What is a high-value funeral? It’s closely related to a high-value Christmas. It is something which does people a power of good. In the case of a funeral, it is transformative of grief.

For undertakers, ‘funeral flight’ represents an urgent existential threat. The business model of a funeral director is structured to provide all or most of the elements of a traditional funeral. Bankruptcy is hovering. When most funerals are private events or non-events, where will be the job satisfaction? For people grieving the death of someone, the consequences of the death of the funeral are quantified by John Birrell – here.

Christmas happens when we need it most. The days are short and dark, the weather awful. We all need cheering up. The retailers, whose livelihood depends on us splashing out bigtime, cleverly meet our needs with both the right merchandise and also cleverly pitched marketing messages – those supermarket  tv ads are all about the feelgood factor. Retailers understand that they will only sell us stuff if they can show us the Christmas is going to be a richly meaningful experience.

When commercial interests align with consumer needs you’ve got the makings of a thriving market, one in which everyone does well. Our undertakers would do well to ponder this, and so would our celebrants. Funerals happen when we need them most, too. If the public, processional, ceremonial funeral is, as we believe, the best way to deliver a high-value funeral experience – a funeral worth every penny – how can it be updated and repurposed in such a way as to accomplish that?

Funeral poverty anyone?

‘High level return on investment within 2 to 5 years’
  • 2,500 plots available to investors
  • Plot price to investors £2,400
  • High level return within two to five years
  • Plots are valued at over £3,750
  • Clearly defined exit strategy
  • Minimum investment is 4 plots

‘A very rare opportunity has arisen to purchase burial plots in London’s Rainham cemetery, which is being extended to accommodate the high demand for burial plots within Greater London…..’

‘….As a unique investment brokerage we specialise in sourcing and delivering the best alternative investment projects worldwide. 

We are proud to present the Rainham Cemetery Phase 2 within the Greater London area. 

We are the EXCLUSIVE master agent for this project. After major planning and preparation we are finally able to offer new burial plots for sale to the general public. 

Due to the desirable location and the critical state of the market, plots are being offered purely on a first-come first-served basis.’

There’s good money to be made in this burial business apparently, according to the team of ‘highly skilled and very successful individuals’ aka the EXCLUSIVE master agents at Harley Investments Ltd.
We have a copy of the brochure at GFG Towers for anyone looking to make a quick buck out of bereaved families needing to find somewhere to bury a relative. 

Dignity Caring Funeral Services prices 2016


For some reason, the UK’s largest provider of funeral related services prefers not to list their prices online.

Happily, we have no such reservations about letting the public know the current cost of a funeral from a Dignity PLC owned business.

(There are currently in the region of 780 funeral director businesses in the UK that belong to Dignity PLC, all of which trade under the name of their former owners.

Have a look here to see which undertakers near you are owned by Dignity. Put your postcode in and see which names come up. You may well be surprised.)

Anyway, back to the prices. To save you squinting at the small print in the pics below, as a quick reckoner, if you pick a Dignity funeral director to be your undertaker, agree to their recommendation of embalming for ‘peace of mind’, select a cardboard coffin and require just a hearse to go direct to the crematorium or cemetery, your bill will be £4,375.00.

Just for clarity, this figure does not include the cremation or burial fees, you’ll need to add another £999.00 just for the cremation fee at many of the Dignity owned crematoria.

Nor does this figure cover the cost for an officiant at the ceremony.  Nor the doctors’ fees required for a cremation in England and Wales. Nor flowers, orders of service, a funeral tea, or an urn for the ashes. 

An at a glance breakdown of the main constituents of that £4,375.00 (all capitals letters not our own) is below. We haven’t bothered to type up all the details, but if you zoom in on the images below, you will see just what you get for your money under each category. (We quite liked the sound of ‘...full access to our own 24 hour Client Service Centre’ which sounds like a description of a VIP lounge at an airport, although in fact it’s a fancy name for the after hours call centre where phone calls get answered when the staff have all gone home.)

Our Service to You:                                         £1,405.00

Our Service to the Person who has Died:       £  950.00

Our Embalming Service:                                 £    75.00

‘We will ensure every available care is taken to delay the natural processes that occur after death. However, as members of the National Association of Funeral Directors, we recommend the peace of mind that embalming brings. You will be advised on this and we will require your consent.’

Your Appointed Funeral Director:               £  665.00

Our Hearses:                                              £  620.00 (each)

Our Limousines                                          £  175.00 (each)

Our Range of Coffins and Caskets – examples:

Veneer MDF coffin:                                      £  440.00

Cardboard coffin:                                         £  660.00

Willow coffin:                                                £1015.00

Source: Dignity Funerals Ltd Price List 3rd October 2016.

You could of course opt for the Dignity Simple Funeral, which offers limited access to their full range of services, no choice of coffin and limited choice on the date and time of the funeral. The Dignity Simple Funeral costs £2,520 and must be paid in full (along with all cremation or burial costs) 48 hours in advance of the funeral date.

Chief Executive of Dignity PLC, Mike McCollum, was among the delegates attending the national conference on funeral poverty held in Edinburgh this week.

We weren’t on the same table as him, so are not able to relay what contribution or comment he had on the subject.




Low Cost Funeral Director of the Year


Lucy Coulbert of Coulbert Family Funerals

Having geared her business specifically to help families of limited means arrange dignified and respectful funerals, Lucy was the only funeral director in England and Wales to give evidence to the 2016 DWP Bereavement Benefits Enquiry.

Lucy gives a 100% customer-focused service, unconstrained by the traditions of funeral service. In an industry which sets great store by conformity and mystique, Lucy is somewhat of a maverick. She does what she believes to be right and pays no heed to gainsayers.

She is at the forefront of a new, open way of doing things and her practice is a beacon to anyone contemplating establishing their own funeral business. She has been brave and outspoken and richly deserves this recognition.

Lucy has committed herself to supporting people of limited means, helping them create an affordable funeral. Funeral poverty has become a major issue in these times of austerity. Lucy created Coulbert Family Funerals to exclusively help people applying to the DWP for financial help paying for a funeral.

In the furtherance of the cause of combatting funeral poverty, Lucy gave evidence the Bereavement Benefits enquiry conducted by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) this year giving both oral and written evidence about the causes of, and solutions to, funeral poverty with Baroness Altmann and the DWP. She was the only person asked to attend all three meetings in the capacity of a funeral director.

Lucy is highly responsive to what her clients ask for. She publishes all her prices online, thereby achieving a transparency that all funeral directors would do well to emulate.

Lucy said: “I help people arrange the funeral they want in the way they want, and I do so in the most ethical way I can. I listen to what people want and don’t try to push them into having things they don’t want or need.”


Runner Up in this Category: Funerals on a Budget

Good news for Dignity shareholders


Bereaved families in the Oxford area may be a little less pleased to know that the cost of having a relative cremated at their local Dignity owned crematorium will be £999 from next week onwards.

Just a short journey towards London, a cremation at South West Middlesex Crematorium will cost £490 (source Funeralbooker report on UK Cremation Costs here).

We wonder whether it is just Oxford, or all 43 Dignity owned and operated crematoria that are hiking up their prices?

Quoting from Dignity’s Annual Reports & Accounts 2015:

We are the largest single operator of crematoria in Britain with a growing portfolio of well-established and state of the art crematoria that meet the needs of the local communities we serve. In 2015, we carried out 57,700 cremations representing 9.8 per cent of total estimated deaths in Britain”

57,000 x £999…… just under £56 million according to the GFG intern who was a whizz at maths.

Funeral poverty anyone?