HAILSHAM residents could face a 20 per cent hike in burial costs from April to meet a rise in grave-digging fees.
The town council has seen a sharp rise in grave-digging costs after tendering for a new contractor following the retirement of Hailsham’s former grave digger in November.
Under the previous grave digger’s prices, a single depth grave cost the council £185, compared to the current price of £330.
A double depth grave previously cost the council £200 and now costs £480.
“There is a shortfall in what we will be getting this year,” said a council spokesman.
“We are looking about what to do to claw back this money,” he added.
So far the council has spent £6,535 on grave digging costs from April 1, 2010 to January 31 this year – roughly 82 per cent of its £8,000 budget for the whole of the year.
At Hailsham Town Council’s burials and properties committee meeting on Monday February 21, councillors proposed to raise burial fees by 20 per cent across the board, in a bid to recover the costs of the council’s new grave digger.
Cllr Bill Bently said, “We have had the benefit of a self-employed individual for many, many, years.
“That person has retired so we have had to go away and tender for a new company.
“The office team had put together a report to balance the books between the previous grave digger and the new contractor.
“If we had just charged more for burials it would have involved an increase in excess of 35 per cent. Instead, the councillors decided to spread the cost out across all of the services, which includes the hiring of the chapel and cremation services, to 20 per cent.
“We were searching for a figure that had less of an impact on families, it is always a difficult one,” he said.
According to town council figures, Funerals and Graves has an expected annual income of £48,000.
There is a £30,000 surplus in income from grave digging fees for the current year, but this does not include most of the other running costs for the cemetery, including staff, buildings, grass cutting, utility charges and office administration.
“In reality the cemetery is a net cost to the council,” said a spokesman.