A flamboyant crematoria boss has hit back at government attacks over the cost of funerals pushing poorer families into worry inducing debt.
By JAMES MURRAY, The Sunday Express
Howard Hodgson rejected claims that funerals were too expensive.
An all party work and pensions select committee report found that poorer families were having to borrow from payday lenders to cover funeral costs, even with state picking up £700 of bills.
The damning report produced by Frank Field prompted the government to call for a review of all crematoria provision and facilities in England and Wales, which ends next month.
However, Howard Hodgson, who runs the Memoria crematoria company, says there is no need for intervention by the government or the Competition and Markets Authority.
Mr Hodgson said: “Mr Field has not done his homework because we already offer a low cost unattended cremation service for £1,100.”
“We also offer a low cost attended cremation for £1,600 or £2,000 depending on the time slot during the day. We have recognised that there that is a demand for this new service and we are reacting to it.”
“Over three days last week we had bookings for 120 cremations and 21 low cost cremations, which is about 17 per cent of the total.”
The select committee found that poorer families were forced to borrow money for funeral costs.
“We do not believe low cost direct cremations, where you don’t have the hearses and limousines, will replace traditional funerals but we do have significant evidence that it is increasing its market share at an impressive rate, signifying a distinct cultural change in the way people are approaching funerals.”
“Therefore we believe that there is not only a moral need to supply this legitimate demand, but that such provision can also reduce the cost of a funeral by around 70 per cent and that this must be good news for both the well off and the public purse.”
“Just to ignore this trend is not in the interest of either the funeral industry or the Government.”
The funeral director said that only 17 per cent of their total funerals booked were low cost, “Indeed, no costly Government intervention is necessary because the market has found a solution to the problems as it usually does in a free enterprise economy.”
“We are seeing a ground breaking change as the baby boomers end their days. This generation changed the fashion of life and now it is changing the fashion of death.”
He cited the death of David Bowie in New York last January, where there was no public funeral service and he was quickly cremated, as a sign of the times.
The flamboyant Hodgson was written two books about his experiences in the funeral business.
He added: “We believe that there is not only a moral need to supply this legitimate demand, but that such provision can also reduce the cost of a funeral by around 70 per cent and this must be good news for both the less well off and the public purse.”
Mr Hodgson has more than 50 years experience in funeral care and comes from a long line of funeral providers.
A successful author, he wrote a best selling biography of Prince Charles and has written two works of fiction based on his experiences in the funeral business.
Published in the Sunday Express, 24 April 2016.