The transfer of the management of Haringey council's cemeteries and crematoria to the private firm Dignity for 50 years has stunned commentators.
The council said it wanted to "secure the future" of three sites in the 50-year deal starting early next year. Five grounds staff will transfer to the firm to look after two cemeteries, at Wood Green and Tottenham, and a crematorium in Enfield.
"Dignity will handle everything, It's like selling the sites except we retain ownership," said a local authority spokesman. He said millions of pounds were needed to bring the service up to modern standards, reduce carbon emissions and comply with legislation.
Councillor Nilgun Canver said: "Our facilities will get the capital investment needed to bring them up to date, but without drawing resources away from other frontline council services."
Parks consultant Sid Sullivan said: "This contract flies in the face of all economic patterns I've seen. Economies of scale for contracts tend to be 10 to 15 years."
But the council's project manager for transfer Tim Baker responded: "What we are doing is disposing of the services to a private firm to run as a business in its own right. It had to be attractive enough for the market to consider bidding."
GMB regional organiser Keith Henderson added: "We are totally against any form of privatisation, especially bereavement."
"We have controls to ensure they don't lock the gates and walk away. We think this is a first for London - local authorities and big firms working in partnership. We won't provide any services."
Tim Baker, project manager for transfer, Haringey Council.