Grieving families are being “fined” if funerals for their loved ones over-run at Preston Crematorium.
Undertakers say they are being hit with a £243 penalty if services exceed the standard 45-minute slot.
The extra charges have to be passed on to bereaved relatives, meaning additional distress at a highly emotional time.
“It’s ridiculous,” said one funeral director from South Ribble who has been handed two fines in the past two months for funerals which over-ran. “I don’t think they can justify such a big penalty when it is usually only a matter of minutes over.”
The undertaker, who asked not to be named, said the extra charges were cruel on families at a distressing time.
“It’s not always easy to make sure proceedings don’t over-run,” he said. “If someone stands up and gives a long eulogy, you can’t just cut them short. There has to be some flexibility. As funeral directors we can’t do much, apart from advise families in advance that there is a strict time limit.”
Another funeral director, Martin Wootton of Martins in Ashton, Preston, said he too had been given a penalty notice recently. But he admittted: “I thought it was reasonable, and so too did the family. After all the funeral started at 4pm and didn’t finish until 6pm. So I suppose the extra charge wasn’t too bad. There wasn’t another funeral waiting outside. We were the last of the day. But the staff couldn’t go home until we had left. We try and advise families about time-keeping, but it’s not always easy.”
Preston Council officers are adamant the fines are not fines, merely fees for “extra chapel time.”
A Town Hall spokesperson said: “The majority of chapel services at the crematorium take place within the standard time slot, but we do offer the option of booking additional time if it is felt to be necessary. Unfortunately when a service overruns, the result is disruption and distress to other users.
“The charging policy has been designed to be fair to all users of the crematorium and to encourage undertakers and families to adequately plan their funeral times and programmes.”