The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar reported on the business plan and the expenditure programme for 2022-2023, which includes proposed fees and charges.
She informed the Joint Committee that the business plan is presented annually for approval, which includes service objectives and proposed maintenance and improvement projects to enhance and maintain the crematorium grounds and buildings for the forthcoming financial year. She outlined the awards and achievements particularly, the achievement of the Green Flag Award again in 2021 and that the service remains financially self-sufficient. She detailed the staffing structure, which included the two temporary crematorium technicians employed in May 2020 to assist with resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. The business hours were listed, the types of memorialisation provided, the different ways that the crematorium markets itself and communicates with its service users. The Business Plan also highlighted the different ways that the crematorium remains environmentally sustainable and the key achievements over the past ten years and mentioned those most recently in 2021. External lighting had been installed and the renewal of the two chapels digital music facilities, including the installation of visual tributes screens.
The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar reported that performance indicators are shown for the previous five years which relate to user satisfaction, the results of which are taken from the service questionnaires sent to cremation applicants. The target is to achieve 100% overall satisfaction levels rated at good or excellent, and these remain constant at 100% with the target set for the same in 2022/23.
The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar detailed the annual statistics for cremations in the calendar year 2021, which was 1887.
The total number of cremations for 2020 was 1933 compared to the 1887 in 2021, which was a decrease 46 cremations in 2021.However, there had been an increase in the number of cremations of 308 on 2019 as a result of the pandemic, so despite the 46 cremations decrease, it still showed the impact of the pandemic on the number of deaths.
The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar reported on the agreed works in 2021-22, which relate to mercury abatement and improvements to Chapel Computerised music and media systems. The installation of external lighting to the grounds again delayed due to the pandemic in the previous year was completed in July 2021, below the original estimated budget. The flower court extension, very much delayed by the pandemic, has now reached the procurement stage for the construction phase of the project. The estimated budget amount is included in the 2022/23 budget. With regard to mercury abatement charges to Cameo following the installation of mercury abatement plant in April 2016, this enabled the crematorium to trade with Cameo to generate an annual income of £5006 which has been received from the trading year 2020/21.
Confirmation was awaited on the potential amount of income expected in 2021/22. There was an expectation of a slight decrease in this annual income in the future as more crematoriums install mercury abatement plant. The main focus of service objectives in 2022/23 is summarised and in addition to the construction of the Flower court extension will be firstly the refurbishment of the Chapel of Remembrance to include underfloor heating and the estimated budget amount is included in the 2022/23 budget. Secondly, improvements to the sight lines at the Crematorium's exit gate to improve safety. The estimated cost is included in the 2022/23 budget. Thirdly, the installation of additional pathways and memorial areas to improve safety and pedestrian access has also been included in the 2022/23 budget.
In addition to these proposed service developments are property contingency. These are included in the crematoriums revenue budget to cover unplanned works and general repairs and maintenance. The surplus spend is designed to build reserves for the future replacement of the cremators and ancillary plant in approximately 11 years’ time as well as fund all future service improvements. By maintaining the reserve, it will ensure the crematorium has sufficient long-term funds and plans eventualities that could occur.
The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar summarised the projected costs of the planned works, further detail would be provided.
in the Treasurer's report. Timescales and officer responsibilities for the project over the past and current financial year and for the reported new objectives for 2022/23 were detailed.
The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar reported on a comparison of cremation fees charged by Crematoria in South Wales and on the proposed increase for the weekday adult cremation fee in line with inflation from £707.50 to £745.70. She informed the Joint Committee that the upgrade of the music and media systems in both chapels has allowed the crematorium to offer additional audio-visual options. The proposed charges will pay for production costs and could contribute towards the maintenance of the equipment. The new charges would replace the current audio-visual charges in place for service recordings and web casts.
The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar explained that in recent years there has been an increasing demand for direct cremation where there is no funeral service and mourner attendance. The coffin being transported to the crematorium at the start of the working day. The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar reported that the introduction of a low-cost direct cremation fee at Coychurch crematorium would provide more choice and recommended that a fee of £550 should be introduced for 2022/23, inclusive of the cremation certificate.
She informed the Joint Committee that all the variations to expenditure and income are outlined in the service level business plan and have been incorporated into the Treasurer’s report.
A member of the Joint Committee asked for clarification of the term ‘users’, are they the people who are actually having the funeral. The member also asked whether the questionnaire is available on the website so people could do it at a later time when they feel more able to do so. The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar informed the Joint Committee that the questionnaire is for the service user, being the member of the family who has arranged the funeral, the legal applicant for cremation, who completes and submits all the statutory application paperwork and the nearest surviving relative of the deceased would normally be that person. Following the funeral service, they are sent information from the crematorium, a covering letter providing condolences and contact details for the crematorium, should they need them. They are also provided with details of resting places and memorials that the crematorium can offer and a service questionnaire for them to complete and a prepaid envelope for its return. Applicants do not have to complete the questionnaire and they can disregard it if they feel that it is inappropriate, or they can take their time to complete it. There is no timeline on its return. There is a questionnaire on the BCBC’s website which is the Council's questionnaire asking for reports on performance of all services received by Bridgend Council, which anybody can complete, that would get forwarded to the crematorium separately. The Crematorium’s questionnaire is primarily aimed at the family and the organiser of the funeral to gain impressions and feelings about the service that they have received for the funeral they have arranged.
A member of the Joint Committee asked whether the Crematorium had data on feedback from non-users feedback. The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar stated that as the whole team of the crematorium is based at the crematorium and are in daily contact with the families that visit there, so the Team tend to have a more intimate relationship with them, any issue whatsoever is raised directly with the crematorium office and it is dealt with on site. The Team tend to find queries on the telephone and by email if the users feel that they do not want to speak directly, examples cited, were of instances where families have raised issues directly with the crematorium staff which were attended to on site at the time.
A member of the Joint Committee asked whether records are kept of interaction or is it more informal. The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar stated that records of all interactions like that are not kept because it is part of the daily management of the crematorium. The questionnaire is a more formal way of achieving an immediate response from a family who have literally just gone through the funeral process.
A member of the Joint Committee requested clarification of the direct cremation service, which is set at £550. The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar informed the Joint Committee that it is a new formalised service for Coychurch and is something that has been taking place informally for many years, where a funeral director has arrived with a coffin and there has been no funeral service booked in the Chapel. Full fees have been charged for the service previously, but direct cremation has become more sought after in recent years and is something that families would like as an additional choice. A member of the Joint Committee asked whether direct cremation is presumably cheaper because not all of the facilities are being used. The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar informed the Joint Committee that it allowed funeral directors to bring the deceased at the beginning of the day so that it does not interfere with the running of the Chapel funeral services. There was still funeral director involvement because the coffin has to be transported to the crematorium and again everything will be done in exactly the same way as it would be for a funeral service in that the coffin would be taken into the chapel, and lowered into the crematory on the catafalque , ensuring the same level of dignity and respect was maintained. It takes into consideration that some families may have limited finances and direct cremation provides a much cheaper option for them , enabling them to have their own funeral service in their own way elsewhere without the additional cost.
RESOLVED: The Joint Committee:
Approved the direct cremation fee for 2022/23 at £550.