MORE people are asking for Burnley Council to pay for the funeral of relatives because they are unable to afford it.

A council report on public funerals said that the increase had come in the past three years. The council usually pays for a funeral when there are no relatives left to make arrangements.

In 2007 Burnley Council paid for three public funerals at a cost of £9,000, of which £7,000 was recovered through the deceased’s estate. But in recent years that number has risen by up to 400 per cent, with 13 public funerals in 2010, at a cost of £16,000, of which only £4,800 was recovered.

There were nine public funerals in 2011 and there have been seven so far in 2012.

Coun 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.”

Jill Wolfendale, the council's principal environmental health officer, said that, historically, local authorities would only get involved in making arrangements where people seemingly died without any relatives.

She added: “However in the last three years there seems to be an increase in those public funerals where there are relatives but they are unwilling or unable to make the funeral arrangements.

“Council staff make every effort to point out to family or friends who may want to make arrangements but have concerns or difficulties meeting the costs that they may be entitled to claim a grant to help towards costs.

“However in recent years relatives are increasingly unable or unwilling to do this as generally they still have to provide up front deposits to funeral directors.”

The council is now looking at a number of ways to encourage more relatives to pay for funerals, or to get other financial assistance to pay for them.