AN increase in cremation fees of three times the rate of inflation in Burnley and Padiham has been branded a ‘tax on death’.

Amid protests, the cost of adult cremations at the Accrington Road chapel will increase from £527 to £559 - that's a rise of six per cent.

Opposition Liberal Democrat councillors have slammed the increase - and have suggested a number of options including closing the Towneley nine-hole golf course.

But the Labour-controlled authority has accused the Lib Dems of hypocrisy after they increased the same charge by 12 per cent in 2010-11.

They claim that the planned hikes - which will also see burials cost four per cent more - will bring fees more into line with other Lancashire authorities.

But Coun Margaret Lishman, the Lib Dems finance spokesman, said that other areas of Lancashire did not have the same economic outlook or health problems as those suffered in Burnley.

Coun Lishman added: “This is a tax on death when people are at their most vulnerable.”

Under Lib Dem plans the cremation fees would be frozen - as would car parking charges in the town centre in an effort to encourage shoppers.

The future of the nine-hole golf course at Towneley would also be reviewed in the longer term and Ward Opportunities Fund money for councillors would be slashed.

Bulky waste charges, due for a 30p rise to £10.60 per visit, would also be scrapped but the Lib Dem proposals were defeated.

Coun Mark Townsend, finance cabinet member, said he would be ‘taking no lessons from the Lib Dems’ over cremation charges.

He told a full council meeting that such fees had increased by an average of six per cent, during their years in charge of the council, and had risen by 12 per cent in 2010-11.

Speaking on car parking charges, he added: “We are trying to improve footfall in the town centre. We have frozen car parking charges for two to three hour stays because we are trying to encourage people to stay for longer.”

There are plans to increase parking prices from 80p to 90p for the first hour and from £1.40 to £1.50 for between one and two hours but keep the two to three hours fee at £2.00.

“What we have go to do is make sure that we can deliver a range of services which are affordable to residents, while at the same time minimising the subsidy that the general council tax payer has to make.”

Council officials say that the cremation fees increase brings Burnley’s charges more into line with other Lancashire councils and a recent £900,000 investment in new cremators.