A new multi-million pound mortuary could be built in West Sussex to replace existing inadequate facilities for dealing with death.
The county council’s community services select committee called for a business case to be prepared for a possible project including a mortuary, post-mortem facilities and a coroner’s court costing up to £5m.
This might be shared with other local authorities, if it went ahead.
Other options being considered, and also to be looked at in a business case, include upgrading current facilities at St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, and Worthing Hospital, which would cost around £1m.
Cllr Graham Tyler said: “We live in a first-class county, but if you die it becomes a third-class county.”
“They should look at buying into a new facility with other councils.”
Chairman Cllr Pat Arculus said if there was a major incident, West Sussex did not have enough facilities to cope at the moment.
“This is not a service which is up to scratch,” she said.
“This is not an area where the need is going to go down in the future.
“How long will we go on putting a sticking plaster on until we are forced to spend something?”
Cllr Clem Stevens said West Sussex needed a mortuary, but as a realist he was aware of the present financial situation.
“I recommend we wait until there are adequate future funds to built a state of the art mortuary that West Sussex deserves,” he said.
Cllr Steve Waight said a business case was needed to cover all the options.
He said he preferred a county-built facility because this would give flexibility, but they did not have a business case at the moment.
“It would mean the county council being master of its own destiny in this important area,” he told the select committee.
Cllr Pete Bradbury, cabinet member for public protection will make the final decision on the way ahead.
He said he had received representations from funeral directors on the issue, making a ‘very fair’ point that if there was a purpose-built mortuary in Mid-Sussex, for example, this would be fine for funeral directors in Burgess Hill or Crawley, but not if you were in Chichester or Hastings.
There would be a lot of time and expenditure in moving bodies between those places and the new central mortuary.
As a result, there would be an inevitable increase in cost for the people paying for the service.