Birmingham City Council spent almost £200,000 on controversial safety tests for grave headstones in just four years, it has emerged.
The money was handed to private contractors Memsafe which are paid according to the number of inspections it carries out.
The figure is three times greater than the fee when the council conducted checks on cemeteries itself.
Between 2004 and 2007, when inspections were performed by the council’s in-house team, the cost was only £59,000 and 4,000 headstones were examined.
From 2004 to 2007, with Memsafe in charge, the cost spiralled to £196,640, and 60,000 headstones were tested.
Only about 12 per cent were found to be faulty, a figure in line with the national average.
The National Association of Memorial Masons said the tests are a waste of money, and only eight people are believed to have been killed in the UK by falling headstones in the past 30 years.
Birmingham City Council has been unable to point to a single accident in its graveyards.
Coun Barbara Jackson (Lib Dem Stechford & Yardley North) is calling for urgent changes in the way inspections are conducted.
Coun Jackson (Lib Dem) said: “I have to ask has the time come to review the criteria to make sure testing isn’t carried out on a payment by results basis?”
The council has previously refused to state how much it pays Wales-based specialists Memsafe to carry out topple tests – where headstones are subjected to pressure to see whether they are in danger of falling over.
Those that fall over are tied with wooden posts with plastic straps.
Relatives are then sent letters asking them to pay for repair work which can cost up to £500.
Cabinet member Tim Huxtable revealed the cost for the first time, but insisted the work was necessary.
Coun Huxtable (Con Bournville) said the contractors pushed headstones in the first instance to see whether they were firm in the ground.
Only if there were signs of movement was it necessary to use “properly calibrated instruments” to gauge to strength of the headstones, he added.
He said a decision was taken to hand the contract to Memsafe because the council’s own inspection team was “deemed to be too slow and not cost effective”.
A council spokesman refused to say how much Memsafe was paid to inspect each grave, but the figure was “less than £10”.
The spokesman explained that tests between 2004 and 2007 concentrated on memorials over 5ft in height.
The programme was extended during 2007-2010 to include all memorials, which the council says accounts for the far larger number of headstones tested.
Memsafe declined to comment.