GRIEVING families may find burial a "less affordable" choice for their loved ones with Fife Council proposing a 25 per cent hike in fees.

They need extra money to fix the estimated 40,000-60,000 headstones that require "urgent remedial action" with fears that unsafe memorials could topple over and cause injury or death.

The issue of safety in cemeteries came to the fore in May 2015 when an eight-year-old boy, Ciaran Williamson, was killed in Glasgow when a seven-foot headstone fell on top of him.

A young child was then injured at Inverkeithing Cemetery in August 2016 by an unstable headstone.

The council is to increase the cost of a full lair from £644 to £812, with the price for a casket lair set to jump from £271 to £340.

Ken Gourlay, head of assets, transportation and environment, said: "As a priority, consideration needs to be given to reviewing fees and charges to provide a long-term funding solution for the maintenance of headstones and cemeteries more generally."

The extra revenue will also be used to improve their 115 burial grounds. A programme of works is expected to cost £4 million over 10 years and the changes will come into affect on April 1.

He added: "Currently, the income from lair sales generates an annual income of around £320,000 which is insufficient to meet the significant liabilities that have been identified; in particular, the condition of cemetery walls and other infrastructure and headstones."

The Fatal Accident Inquiry report after Ciaran's death focused on the inspection of memorials and said that action from local authorities to ensure cemeteries are safe must be accelerated.

In Fife, a sample survey was carried out at five cemeteries, including Inverkeithing.

It said that 40-60 per cent of headstones were "likely to be in poor condition and require urgent remedial action", with Mr Gourlay adding: "Extrapolating the information from the initial sample survey across Fife would suggest that between 40,000 and 60,000 headstones may require attention."

Initial remedial work began at the five cemeteries and, once completed, will be rolled out to the other cemeteries.

Graveyard walls also need to be repaired and the list of priority works includes Carnock Cemetery (£15,000), Culross Abbey (£22,500) and St Fillans Church in Aberdour (£7,000).

Mr Gourlay's report admits the proposal to fund improvements by hiking costs "may make the choice of burial less affordable".

However, he added that, in a separate piece of work, the council was close to a deal to address "funeral poverty".

He said: "Discussions have been taking place with a local firm of funeral directors and it is hoped that we will shortly be able to launch a low-cost but dignified funeral package for Fife residents, similar to arrangements that are found in other parts of the UK."

At present, the purchase price for a full burial lair is £644 – which can potentially accommodate two-to-three full interments and three caskets – and a casket lair, which can accommodate three caskets, is £271.

The Scottish average is £813 and £520 respectively.

Councillors agreed a rise of eight per cent a year for three years, taking the costs to £812 and £340 respectively from April 2021.

Mr Gourlay said: "Technically, headstones and memorabilia are not the property of the council. However, because of the broad duty of care we have to visitors of cemeteries, a responsibility lies with the council to address the emerging situation."

He added that, due to the passage of time, the council does not always have current contact records for lair-holders and it was often difficult to track down and persuade them to carry out and pay for remedial works.