THE borough council spent more than £70,000 on public funerals during the last year, figures reveal.

A report, published in August by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, shows that it organised and paid for 88 public health funerals in the last 12 months.

Public health funerals are provided by local authorities for people who have died and have no next of kin, or whose next of kin, relatives or friends are unable or unwilling to make the necessary funeral arrangements.

Information on the government website states that 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.

Of those given a public health funeral by the borough council, 29 were for females and 59 for males; 32 had no next of kin; seven were widowed; four were married; 28 were single; and one was engaged.

Information including marital status was not always available for every individual.

The eldest person given a public health funeral was 88 and the youngest was 32.

A total of 41 of the funerals were cremations, and 34 burials. This information was not provided for all the funerals.

The most expensive funeral was for an 81-year-old woman from Old Basing who was separated, whose burial cost £1,652.50.

When arranging public health funerals, the council organises for a burial or cremation at a time appropriate for the council and funeral director.

They provide a coffin to be taken to the cemetery in a hearse attended by bearers; provide a grave side service from a cleric of the deceased’s religion or humanist service; and in the absence of other mourners, the funeral is attended by a council officer.

The council does not erect a memorial stone and the grave remains the ownership of the council.

The government advises councils to attempt to recover expenses for public health funerals to minimise costs to the taxpayer.

Information provided in the council report shows it spent at least £71,330 on public health funerals during the last year. However, many of the funeral costs were not included in the report and were yet to be confirmed.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has so far recovered at least £35,800.59 of these costs.

Legally, the council has first call on the deceased person’s estate and may collect money due or belongings which can be sold to offset the costs.

Any shortfall is borne by the council.