A PROTESTER who fiercely opposed the sale of Bretby Crematorium says she is ‘absolutely disgusted’ that its new owners have hiked up prices.
Margaret Thornton claimed Midland Co-operative was ‘playing on people’s sadness’ after she discovered the cost of planting a tree with a plaque in the grounds was now £720 — up from just £200 12 years ago.
But the funeral company defended the increase in costs, saying they were ‘in line with those agreed at the time of the sale’.
Mrs Thornton, of Woodville, said the protesters were ‘right from day one’ when they predicted that the cost of dying would increase following the sale.
Despite a petition against the sell-off signed by more than 4,000 people, former owners South Derbyshire District Council and East Staffordshire Borough Council — the latter as the leading authority — finally dissolved their involvement with the Geary Lane site in April 2011, after 36 years.
It was jointly managed by the borough and district councils but was sold to the Co-op for £7.6 million.
The authorities took a £400,000 reduction on the original asking price of £8 million to ensure
the Co-op capped its prices for four years.
As well as the increased cost of tree planting, figures for signing the Book of Remembrance from April 2010, when it was still council-owned, show just how much costs have climbed.
In 2010, it cost £49 for a two-line entry in the book. Today it costs £60. Those who wanted a five-line entry with a floral illustration and/or crest in 2010 could expect to pay £119, but the cost has risen by £21 to £140.
Meanwhile, an eight-line entry with illustration will now cost £175, as opposed to £152 back in 2010.
Mrs Thornton said: “It is absolutely disgusting. Nothing surprises me. We were absolutely right from day one that they would increase the prices.
“They said nothing would be altered and nothing would be different. It will get worse, especially when the cap on funeral prices ends.
“A few years ago I wanted to move my husband’s ashes to the crematorium and plant a tree but was told there was no room available, so I didn’t ask about the price, but £720 would have put me off.
“The grounds are lovely and very pleasant but it will gradually become more and more commercialised. It is all about commercialisation and making a profit.
“I know prices are going up with fuel and energy but a lot of people cannot afford the amount needed for a funeral these days. I dread to think of the bills.
“Just because you may not be able to afford the same things as others does not mean you don’t want the same sentiment.
“It is playing on people’s sadness.” A spokesman for Midlands Cooperative said: “I can confirm that the price increases at Bretby Crematorium are in line with those agreed at the time of the sale.
“I can also confirm that we are well on track with our £250,000 improvement programme, which was also agreed at the time of the purchase.”