Under the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984, when a resident in the area passes away (excluding in hospital) the Council has a duty to make arrangements for the funeral, if living relatives cannot be found or they are unable/unwilling to pay any funeral expenses.
The Council does not publish details of public health funerals but where relevant, information is provided to the Government Legal Department (previously called Treasury Solicitors') and may also be found on the Bona Vacantia website. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), in its Decision Notices (FS50584670 and FS50583220), supports the non disclosure of the personal details of the deceased under the following section:
Section 31(1)(a) FoIA
The Council will not disclose details into the public domain where they relate to the address of the deceased. When tracing relatives it may take several months to complete our enquiries. During this time the property of the deceased can remain unoccupied and fully furnished with all their household possessions, papers and personal effects. Even when relatives have been found a property can remain unoccupied for a considerable time afterwards.
Advertising the address would leave the property vulnerable to crime; including anti-social behaviour, criminal damage, arson, identity fraud and the crimes that can be committed using false documents. Therefore, Section 31(1)(a) FoIA (law enforcement - prevention and detection of crime) will be applied to prevent release of any information which would identify the address of the deceased.
Furthermore, the Council considers that the following exemption to disclosure also applies:
Section 40(2) FoIA
Disclosing the full name and address of the deceased will lead to living relatives being identified; either by people who know the deceased or by someone making further enquiries (such as a search of the Electoral Register). This might identify the spouse, partner or other relative who may (or may not) still reside in the property. We believe that these individuals would not want it made known that they had either declined or were unable to pay for the funeral. This is a private matter and therefore, Section 40(2) FoIA has been applied to protect the personal information of living relatives.
However, we recognise that there is a public interest in understanding the cost to the public purse of such public health funerals. Therefore, please see the table below for this information - N.B. It is published in financial years:
|Year||No. of Funerals||*Cost (£)||No. of Burials||No. of Cremations|
*The Council may receive contributions from the estate of the deceased to cover the cost. Therefore, we have only shown net cost each year (some years are negative due to contributions being received from prior year costs).
All funerals of this type have a short service, even if it is only a reading by the funeral director.