A MASSIVE increase in burial fees has been approved amid a heated debate at a Bicester council.

Last month Bicester Town Council’s environment committee backed the proposals which include nearly trebling the fee for interment of ashes from £25 to £70.

Its policy committee has now ratified the controversial move, despite opposition.

Fees for monuments and inscriptions are going up from between £22.50 and £50 to £90.

Also rising is exclusive right of burial on a plot in the council-run cemetery behind St Edburg’s Church.

Fees for a 99-year lease are currently between £35 and £125, but this will be replaced by a standard £250 per plot, a maximum rise of 614 per cent.

The town council said it was the first increase for 15 years and brought the charges in line with other local authorities like Witney and Didcot.

But at a meeting last Wednesday, Councillor Les Sibley said: “I’m dismayed at the attitude of this council over these massive increases “Most of them you are looking at are 100 per cent, which is absolutely ridiculous especially in this financial climate.”

Mr Sibley called for the fee increase to be phased in, or put on hold until a new town cemetery opened.

Councillor Dan Sames said: “We have looked at these fees in the past and put them on hold then. We haven’t raised charges for 15 years.

“Cllr Sibley thinks it’s ridiculous the charges are increasing by such an amount.

“I think it’s ridiculous the fees have not been increased for 15 years. We have got to do it, we can’t afford not to.”

He argued as it was a one-off expense for people and was relatively infrequent there would no benefit in phasing in the increase.

Jim Tucker said the fees needed to rise because the council was “bearing the cost from council funds”.

The new fees were approved by the policy meeting under delegated powers, the council has not said when they will come into force.