The Mail understands that Bretby Crematorium could be sold for £7.5 million following a secret meeting to discuss the deal.
Protesters were out in force yesterday at the Geary Lane site, which is jointly owned by East Staffordshire Borough Council and South Derbyshire District Council. They vented their anger and opposition to controversial proposals to sell the facility to a private operator.
The Mail understands that the preferred bidder is funeral services giant Midlands Co-Op.
The, campaigners, most of whom have the ashes of relatives and friends buried or scattered in the crematorium's grounds, held up posters urging councillors arriving for a meeting of its joint management committee to think again when deciding whether to sell off the asset.
Sources have told the Mail that the proceeds from any sale would be divided between the Conservativecontrolled councils pro-rata on the basis of their respective populations.
South Derbyshire would receive a 46 per cent cut and the remaining amount would go to East Staffordshire.
Tory members of East Staffordshire Borough Council
previously voted to allow its leader, Richard Grosvenor to solely decide the outcome on behalf of the authority.
When arriving for yesterday’s meeting, Councillor Grosvenor was handed campaign literature by protesters, but did not make any comment.
However, committee member and fellow East Staffordshire borough councillor Bernard Peters spoke briefly to protesters, saying: "We will have a full and open debate." One campaigner, Margaret Thornton, who is hoping to bury her late husband's ashes at the crematorium, said: "Privatisation is there to make profit for the few.
"It is a worry that any funeral company which buys the site will charge less for those using their own business, and raising costs for those using other funeral directors.
“There is a fear of not knowing what will happen after it has been sold.
"We have been given no choice, no nothing.
"This has all gone on below board, so there's got to be some secret agenda." Jim Muir, a former Labour county and borough councillor, said: "These meetings should not be held in private.
“This is an asset of the people and they are not allowing the input of the people.
“It was built by the people for the people." Woodville resident Jim Marcer, and Judy Wilkins, from Swadlincote, who have many family members buried on site, said they were 'disgusted' at what could happen.
Committee member and South Derbyshire District Council leader Bob Wheeler told the Mail afterwards: "Today's meeting did not approve any sale of the crematorium, neither did it reject it.
“Instead, we unanimously agreed to refer the details back to both councils." South Derbyshire is now due to discuss the proposals at its next finance and management committee meeting on March 17, although no final recommendation has yet been made on whether or not the site should be sold.