DORSET councils are stepping in to pay for around a hundred funerals a year – where there is no one else to meet the bill.

Between Dorset Council and the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council public health funerals, as they are known, have been costing up to £50,000 a year. Each of the services is at a basic level, usually a cremation.

Dorset Council figures show that in 2021 the authority paid for 18 funerals at a total cost of just under £24,000 which rose to 42 funerals in 2023 at a cost of £39,300.

To the end of February there has only been ten funerals, so far at a cost of £22,280.

In the BCP area there were referrals for 57 funerals in 2022, thirteen of which were eventually handled by family or solicitors handling the estate of the bereaved – amounting to 44 funerals which were carried out by the authority at a cost of £44,400.

In 2023 the council received 45 referrals, nine of which it did not ultimately need to arrange, resulting in 36 funerals which it did organise at a total cost of £25,800.

The Government says the funerals are provided by local councils for people who have passed away with no next of kin, of whose next of kin, relatives or friends, are unable of unwilling to make the necessary arrangements for a funeral.

Said the Department of Health: “They are designed to protect public health and are important in ensuring that all individuals are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their circumstances… The provisions within section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 were developed to protect public safety and limit the spread of infectious diseases – their primary objective is to protect public health.”

The Act says that councils can recover the costs from the estate of the deceased, where practicable.

It also states that the deceases should not be cremated if the council has reason to believe that would be against the wishes of the deceased and should be mindful of known religiour beliefs.