RESIDENTS in Trowbridge have been warned it could be cheaper to bury their loved ones in Chippenham and Salisbury if a proposed fee increase is approved.

A councillor has urged Trowbridge Town Council to freeze burial fees when it assumes responsibility in April for managing The Down Cemetery.

Cllr Antonio Piazza says it will be cheaper for Trowbridge residents to be buried in Chippenham and Salisbury as a non-resident of those towns.

In a plea to the town council’s neighbour service committee, he voiced “profound reservations” about the proposed fee structure it wants to charge in 2024-25.

Wiltshire Times: Trowbridge Town Council is proposing to increase fees to bury loved ones in The Down Cemetery when it takes over the management in April next year. Photo: Trevor Porter 70276-45Trowbridge Town Council is proposing to increase fees to bury loved ones in The Down Cemetery when it takes over the management in April next year. Photo: Trevor Porter 70276-45 (Image: Trevor Porter)

It now costs £989.84 to bury someone in Trowbridge but this fee could rise to £1,069.03 from next April, compared currently to only £563 in Chippenham and £450 in Salisbury.

Cremated ashes burials in Trowbridge could rise from £335.16 to £361.98 from next April, compared with just £230.50 in Chippenham and £450 in Salisbury currently.

Relatives wanting to bury a coffin larger than 80 inches and wider than 28 inches will have to pay a surcharge of £293.20 compared with £271.48 currently.

A grave (coffin) for 40 years under Exclusive Rights of Burial is expected to rise to £958.04, while the charges for Chippenham and Salisbury remain substantially lower at £506.50 and £660 respectively.

Currently, The Down Cemetery fees are subsidised by 50 per cent for residents of the Trowbridge Civil Parish, while non-resident fees are double.

The proposed increases are based on an assumed eight per cent rise in consumer price inflation for the 12 months to September 2023.

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Wiltshire Times: Burial fees could rise at The Down Cemetery in Trowbridge from next April. Photo: Trevor Porter 70276-2Burial fees could rise at The Down Cemetery in Trowbridge from next April. Photo: Trevor Porter 70276-2 (Image: Trevor Porter)

But Cllr Piazza says families could face a crippling burden if they approve the proposals to raise fees.

“Bereavement is often a financially challenging time for families, and additional costs for larger coffins can amplify this burden, especially for lower-income families," he said.

“Moreover, this surcharge on larger coffins could be perceived as a form of discrimination, penalising families for circumstances well beyond their control, namely the physical stature of their loved ones.

“The moral duty of our council should pivot towards alleviating, not intensifying, the challenges experienced by our constituents during trying times."

Trowbridge Town Council leader Cllr Stewart Palmen said the decision would be made when setting the budget in December.

“Trowbridge Cemetery is currently run by Wiltshire Council and the points on relative pricing between Trowbridge and other towns raised by Cllr Piazza have existed for all the years he has been a Wiltshire councillor but so far he has failed to raise them as an issue with Wiltshire Council.

“The town council have listened to his inputs and will research other cemeteries' pricing policies and then decide on a fair pricing structure in December.

“One thing that is likely to change is that the costs will be lower for those living within the Trowbridge parish than those living in neighbouring parishes.”

Lance Allan, Trowbridge Town Council’s chief executive, added that Chippenham and Salisbury's respective councils charge a significantly higher Council Tax charge to their residents, so could not be compared.

“Chippenham charge £298.64 Band D (36 per cent higher than Trowbridge), Salisbury charge £330.00 Band D (52 per cent higher than Trowbridge), Trowbridge charge £220.31. Bradford on Avon also charges a higher Council Tax than Trowbridge £250.61 (14 per cent higher).

"Of course, councillors may decide to increase the Council Tax charge to similar levels as these other councils in order to keep the burial fees down.

“The draft figures presented to the committee today include an eight per cent increase on the current Wiltshire Council charges.

"If councillors would prefer a 6.5 per cent or whatever the September CPI figure is (which will be published next week) then the alternative figure can be presented at the next meeting when the fees and charges for the committee need to be agreed for presentation to Policy & Resources and incorporation into the budget.

“The Bradford on Avon figure quoted on their website is the 2022/2023 charge of £1885.40 and may have been subject to an increase on 1st April this year and is the non-resident fee; the resident fee is half of this.

“So, in 2022/23 residents of Bradford on Avon were charged £942.7. If two years’ inflation (10.1 per cent and 6.5 per cent) is added then this would be: £1,105.38.

“With CPI inflation alone, the 2004 figure you quote regarding total funeral costs of £1,920 would have increased to £3,341 and with RPI would be around £3,657.”