AN INFLATION-busting 15 per cent rise in cremation fees in Worcester have been defended by council chiefs - who say the hike is vital.

The city's Labour leadership has moved to defend criticism over the increase, saying Worcester crematorium is crying out for investment.

From April the price of an adult cremation will go from £610 to £700, the largest year-on-year surge ever.

The cabinet is opting to freeze charges for babies and children, saying they are trying to be sensitive about it.

Councillor Stephen Hodgson, who represents Warndon, has hit out at the fees by saying the "cost of living" is under attack.

"If you look at these charges and look at everything else I see it going up and up," he said.

"It's the cost of living that is going up and I do worry about it."

Councillor Matthew Lamb, cabinet member for cleaner and greener, said the rise is the only way to secure significant investment for the crematorium.

The council is looking to cut £4.1 million from spending by 2019 but says it is determined to try and invest in the site.

At the moment around 1,900 cremations take place in Worcester every year, meaning the rise could be worth more than £170,000.

Coun Lamb said: "We are being sensitive and are not putting up the cost of cremations for babies and children.

"The reason why we are making these changes is to invest in the crematorium.

"We need to make sure we've got money to improve it, and it compares well to other areas.

"It's slightly cheaper than the Wyre Forest, for example, and slightly more expensive than Redditch, but Worcester has always been a bit more than Redditch."

Worcester crematorium, in Tintern Avenue, off Astwood Road, has a chapel, public waiting area, toilets and a Hall of Remembrance along with a book for people to sign.

The chapel can seat up to 90 people, with more room for people to stand, but has had little investment in recent years.

The city council is making cuts of £974,000 from April for the 2014/15 budget, mainly due to a 15 per cent cut in central Government funding.