The cost of a funeral has kept pace with house price inflation since 1980 – with London ranking as the most expensive place to be laid to rest, at an average of £4,000.
Funeral costs have risen by an average 6.1 per cent each year while UK house prices have gone up by 6.6 per cent annually, according to research from life company Royal London. There is a chronic shortage of burial plots which means people are being priced out of funerals in some areas, and are taking on debt to pay for burials.
Beckenham in Bromley is the most costly London area, with an average £7,216 price tag for a burial. Southgate and Wandsworth come in second and third, costing around £6,940.
“It’s worrying to see funeral costs are continuing to rise,” says MP Emma Lewell-Buck. “We need to have a national conversation about how we address the rising costs.”
Royal London described funeral costs as the “elephant in the room”. The figures only include the most basic funeral costs: collection or care of the deceased, a basic coffin, hearse, and a simple service at a crematorium or burial site.
A shortage of burial space also means councils slap “non-residency fees” on families wishing to bury their dead in a place other than where they lived. Lewisham is the most expensive borough in London, costing a whopping £11,148.
This fee will also have to be paid by people living in a borough that has no burial space. Both Hackney and Tower Hamlets have exhausted all new burial space and residents will have to use plots in neighbouring areas – incurring non-resident fees, says Tim Morris of the Institute of Cemetary and Crematorium Management.
Savings are used to pay for two-thirds of funerals, but one in five are paid for by a pre-paid funeral plan.
People can save money by shopping around, but the bereaved are often in too much distress to do so. Website YourFuneralChoice.com shows the cost of local funeral directors. They say people can save £700 on average by investigating the options.