A MAN was late for his own funeral and it saw his family hit with a £160 charge.

Fife Council issued the funeral director with a penalty after the church service overran and led to the cortege’s arrival at Culross Cemetery being delayed by half an hour.

Along with the local authority’s other fees, it was then included on the firm’s bill as ‘council surcharge (late arrival) £160’ and issued to the man’s widow.

She asked to remain anonymous and told the Times: “I was stunned. I’d never heard of being charged for being late for a funeral.

“You’re already stressed and grieving so to get this charge levied against you, it just looks so cold on the funeral bill. If we’d gone to the pub for a shindig and not bothered going until later we would deserve a penalty, but it’s a funeral, we went straight from the church to the cemetery.”

The funeral was held last month. The cortege was due at the cemetery at 1.30pm but didn’t arrive until just after 2pm.

She said: “My husband was well-known, it was a big funeral and the church was very busy.

“It was a requiem mass and a lot of people took communion, and then there were a lot of cars trying to get out of the car park at the end. The thing is, you can’t tell how many people are going to turn up for a funeral, and how many will take communion.“You’ve no real way of knowing.”

The invoice was issued by the funeral director with their own fees and also the council fees, such as lair purchase and lair opening. He said he was informed by the council there was a £160 surcharge for being late to the cemetery and included it on her bill.

He told the Times: “The cortege never arrived until after 2pm. Before that, I’d got a phone call from the council to ask where the cortege was and that staff were still waiting for us.

“I let them know we were on our way and that’s when I was notified there was a likelihood there would be a surcharge.”

He said an email later confirmed that the £160 surcharge would be applied. He added that the move was designed to bring in the same stringent time management measures that the council have at their crematoria.

The widow said: “It’s all timescales and money. They’re hugely short-staffed and there’s a point where they have to crack on, I get that, but it was all very hurried. The staff had to get to another cemetery. I just wanted to get five minutes peace at the graveside, just that little time to myself to say goodbye, but I didn’t get it that day.”

She had paid the bill and only later spotted the ‘late arrival’ charge and raised it with the funeral director, who told her it was a Fife Council charge.

After querying it on the phone with bereavement services, she was told it would be waived “on this occasion as they’d realised it was a big funeral”, but said she was astonished there was even a penalty in the first place.

She said: “The funeral director hasn’t done anything wrong, he’s been very good with us.

“It’s more the principle of it. This won’t be the only big funeral and are people aware this is what Fife Council do if you’re late to a funeral?

“I don’t think it’s widely known they can charge for that.”

After the funeral director was informed of the change of heart, he refunded the £160.

He showed the Times the email to him from ‘Business support, Dunfermline Crematorium’, which confirmed: “I have spoken to management and they will not charge the surcharge on this occasion, but it will apply in any future ones that are that late (33 minutes).”

The council initially told us: “We do not charge extra if services run over time”. When the Times referred to the contents of the email, they issued an updated response.

Bereavement services manager Liz Murphy said: “We do charge fees for our services and we work with funeral directors who also charge for the services they provide. If our staff have to work extra hours due to a funeral running over time, that surcharge can be passed to the funeral director.

“There was no surcharge on this occasion. It is the funeral director’s decision as to whether any surcharge is passed on to the family.”