WILTSHIRE Council held nine so-called paupers’ funerals last year, new research shows.

Public health funerals – commonly known as paupers’ funerals – are arranged by councils when someone dies and has no traceable family, or when no-one is able or willing to organise and pay for a service.

But insurance company Royal London says a lack of minimum standards means some grieving relatives across the UK are being treated unfairly.

Wiltshire Council undertook nine public health funerals in 2018-19, according to information obtained by the firm via Freedom of Information requests.

Data for how much it spent was not available, but across all councils that did provide a figure, the average cost was £1,507.

The company asked councils if they allow family members to attend a public health funeral – 14, said they do not, with reasons given including that there is no service to attend. Wiltshire Council does allow people to attend.

Researchers also found that 21 councils by default do not return ashes to bereaved families after a cremation, and 18 charge for ashes to be returned, with fees varying between £10 and £18.

One said this covered the cost of the urn.

Louise Eaton-Terry, funeral cost expert at Royal London, “When some families are refused the ashes of their loved ones or are not even allowed to attend the funeral, it is clear that they are being treated unfairly.

“It’s about time the system was overhauled, and we’re calling for legislation on minimum standards for public health funerals to ensure everyone can, at the very least, attend a funeral and collect their loved one’s ashes.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for burials and cremations, said: “We are aware of concerns around the different services local authorities provide for public health funerals and are considering the matter.”

A spokesman for Wiltshire Council said: “The council provides an extremely simple public funeral for deceased people who have no relatives or friends to carry out this for them.

“The funeral provided is extremely simple but dignified. There are no flowers or hymns but we do let close friends know when the funeral is so they may attend.”

It said the funerals are held at Salisbury Crematorium.