THE leader of the Redditch Conservative group has slammed the increase in fees at the Abbey crematorium.

Councillor Juliet Brunner labelled it a "shameful tax on grieving and bereaved families in Redditch".

Speaking at a recent full council meeting, she said to the controlling Labour group: "You've clearly implemented this rise because you've raided the reserves,using the money we had put by for a new cremator, replacing vehicles and repairing our public buildings.

"You're now taxing grieving and bereaved families making them carry this extra burden."

She said the average increase in services at the crematorium is 19.1 per cent and not the three per cent quoted by the leader, Councillor Bill Hartnett, in his speech to the council.

She added: "The Labour Party are now passing on this rise to our bereaved families. Not only will they be hit by  a council tax rise, they'll also have this additional shameful death tax to bear."

She said the price increase for a memorial service where a cremation has taken place elsewhere has risen by 100 per cent and remembrance cards has increased by 75 per cent.

In response, Councillor Hartnett said: "It is true that  this council does face some financial challenges but I am surprised that Councillor Brunner is suggesting that we would bolster other service areas by charging grieving families over the odds to bury or cremate their loved ones particularly as her party did not put forward any amendments to this charge at the time.

"The burial and cremation charges have gone up by three per cent and we are still about £100 cheaper than other local crematoriums and burial and some charges did also go down by more than three per cent or indeed stay the same.

“Where we have put prices up is for the optional additional lines which we don’t get many requests for. And these prices have stayed the same for years and if we didn’t increase them then we would be running at a loss when they were ordered."