The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar submitted a report and the accompanying Business Plan, that included service objectives and proposed maintenance and improvement projects to enhance and maintain the Crematorium grounds and the buildings for the forthcoming financial year.
She explained that in line with the Memorandum of Agreement, the purpose of the June annual review was to look back at the performance of the Crematorium during the preceding financial year of 2021/22; to review performance against the 2021/22 business plan, and a number of headings have been identified, which could be analysed in more detail, commencing on page 13 of the report.
Firstly, she confirmed that the total number of cremations in 2021/22, was 1681 made up of 1024 from Bridgend, 140from Vale of Glamorgan and 459 from Rhondda Cynon Taff, with 58 from outside of the 3 authorities. While the mid-part of 2021 was still experiencing some impact from the Covid-19 pandemic with higher cremation numbers, this began to drop to more normal levels towards the latter part and into the early part of this year, as the vaccination programme took effect. When she delivered this report last June, she reported 2086 cremations for the financial year 2020/21, an increase of 416 cremations on the previous pre-covid financial year, which was a quarter more deaths than would have been expected. So, a more normal death rate return was being seen, replacing those very sad circumstances.
The second heading on Page 13 of the report, detailed service standards through the results of the Public Satisfaction Questionnaires in 2021/22, which are sent to all cremation applicants. The target is to achieve 100% overall satisfaction levels rated at good or excellent, and the Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar, was pleased to report that these remained constant at 100%, with a target set in the 2022/23 Business Plan for the same result.
The observations and comments provided by the cremation applicants were detailed, so she had added some notes where applicable to assist with clarity.
Due to the pandemic, 2021/22 has remained extremely challenging, and despite the higher numbers of funerals and the restrictions in place to keep mourners and staff safe, feedback is very positive and where necessary she had responded to the cremation applicant in writing. There were some really positive comments regarding the professional sensitive attention received from Crematorium staff and the way that the funeral services are run, and also the high standards of maintenance of the grounds and buildings, including the peaceful atmosphere of the site. The benefits of the Crematorium’s webcast system had been clearly very much appreciated during the pandemic period. Members will note some comments between April and September relating to restrictions in place as a result of the pandemic, but from October onwards these comments cease as restrictions slowly relaxed. The Joint Committee will also note some negative comments regarding the Crematorium’s sound system between April and September, but again from October onwards these comments cease, when both chapels received completely new digital music and media systems, which were proving to be extremely successful.
The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar stated that it was of some particular note, that the Crematoria had once more achieved the Green Flag award in 2021 for the 12th year in succession. This is the nationally recognised award for standards of care, maintenance and good management practices of the site and grounds. The award confirms the commitment to maintaining high standards, which can be appreciated by all its visitors.
The third heading on Page 20 of the report, detailed the expenditure programme for planned works in 2021/22. In combination with the table on Page 21, Members could analyse the progress of the service objectives for last year.
In summary the Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar, confirmed that planned works in 2021/22 primarily concentrated on, firstly, the installation of external lighting to the site. Despite the challenges of the pandemic this was completed in July last year with a final spend of £250k, which was within the original estimated budget of £300k. Not only does the new external lighting look excellent and had received many complements, it has enabled the Crematorium to provide later service times in the winter months, when previously the darker nights prevented this for reasons of safety.
Secondly, the upgrade to the chapel music and media systems took place, which were replaced in both chapels and included additional speakers and new overflow and visual tribute screens. This was completed in December last year with a final spend of £45k, again within the original estimated budget.
The Coronavirus pandemic has caused delays to the Crematoria other main project, the Flower Court extension, with the project moved to the current 2022/23 budget. A further report on this would follow on the agenda.
The budget strategy review had been completed and was reported in the 2022/23 Business Plan Report at the previous meeting of the Joint Committee on 4th March this year, with the service remaining financially self-sufficient.
The table on Page 21 of the report, summarised the timescales and officer responsibilities for the service objectives over the past and current financial years.
In addition to these proposed service developments, a property contingency is included in the Crematorium’s revenue budget to cover unplanned works and general repair and maintenance.
The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar, also reminded Members of the Crematorium’s surplus fund which is designed to build up reserves for the future replacement of the cremators and ancillary plant in approximately 10 years, as well as fund all future service improvements. Maintaining this reserve will ensure the Crematorium has sufficient long-term funds for both, plus any unplanned eventualities that could occur. Further details of this and the overall budget would be explained in the Treasurers report, she added.
Members commended the report, whilst the Chairperson also paid tribute to the extensive rose gardens in the grounds that were the second largest in Wales.
RESOLVED: That the Joint Committee noted the report with pleasure.