THE number of ‘pauper's funerals’ in Blackburn with Darwen paid for by the council has more than doubled in four years.

And it has left the borough with a potential burials bill of almost £70,000 a year.

In 2008/2009, the authority paid for 22 ‘public health funerals’ where relatives could not be found, or could not or would not pay. By 2011/2012 that had risen to 57.

At an average cost of £1,217 a burial, that lands taxpayers with a potential cost of £69,369 for the 12 months unless cash can be recovered from the deceased’s estates.

The rise mirrors similar figures nationally, with recent surveys showing the number of individuals, especially over 65s, dying without relatives willing or able to pay rising sharply.

A recent report to Burnley Council revealed a dramatic increase in so-called ‘paupers funerals’ in recent years.

In 2007 it paid for three at a cost of £9,000, of which £7,000 was recovered through the deceased’s estate. That number rose to 13 public funerals in 2010, at a cost of £16,000, of which only £4,800 was recovered.

The figures for Blackburn with Darwen were 22 in 2008/2009, 40 in 2009/ 2010, 32 in 2010/2011 and 57 in 2011/2012.

In contrast, the last public health funeral in wealthier Ribble Valley was in 2009.

Anchor, the older people's charity, recently revealed that more than 21,000 older people a year were dying alone without family or friends willing or able to pay for burials and cremations, with some regions seeing a 14 per cent jump in the last five years.

It showed that over-65s now accounted for 54 per cent of all public-health funerals, with 17,000 in the North West taking place in the past five years.

A second survey found that the rise in such funerals was partly caused by the Government turning down almost half of those who applied for the £1,217 state burial allowance.

Senior Burnley councillor Howard Baker said: “It is an awful situation for somebody to be in.

“I know we have had a few funerals where there are no relatives left to pay recently.

“A lot of the time, the council will pay and then reclaim some or all of the money from the estate.”