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Agenda item

Quarterly Performance and Operational Report:

Report of the Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar.


The Bereavement Services Manager, Graham Harrison asked Members to note the performance figures from 1 April 2019 to 31 May 2019 and the comparison to the same period for 2018, highlighting that there was a net decrease of 64 cremations year on year.  It was noted there was a total of 380 for the three-month period with the April to May profile breakdown showing 106 from Durham, 22 from Spennymoor and 252 from outside of the area.  Members were reminded that for the same period last year the Office of National Statistics data had also shown an increase in the death rate nationally and the current financial year numbers were broadly in line with what had been experienced in previous years.  The Bereavement Services Manager noted there was nothing to suggest a down turn in overall use of the crematorium.


Members were asked to note that the number of memorials sold was fewer when comparing to the same period the previous year, however those sales represented an increase of income, being £2,195 greater than the comparable period last year.


The Joint Committee were reminded that it had been agreed at the April meeting to advertise for a relief Crematorium Attendant posts.  The Bereavement Services Management noted that the posts would be advertised shorty, internally at Durham County Council and Spennymoor Town Council, and also externally.


Members were asked to recall from September 2019 that within the Service Asset Management Plan (SAMP) an estimated cost for works to make improvements to office accommodation had been presented. 

The Bereavement Services Manager noted that a feasibility study had now been completed and final estimated costs, including an increase due to additional works associated with drainage, were set out within the report for the Committee to consider.


The Joint Committee noted that the usual arrangements as regards attendance at the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM) Learning Convention and Exhibition, to be held 23 to 25 September 2019 at the Chesford Grange Hotel, near Kenilworth, had been made for the Bereavement Services Manager and the Chair to attend on behalf of the Joint Committee.


Councillors noted that the Recycling of Metals Scheme had generated a sum of £7,000 for the Great North Air Ambulance and that a cheque had been presented to the charity.  It was noted a further cheque in the sum of £8,000 had been presented to Cancer Research North East and that additional funds from collections in 2018 resulted in an extra round of nominations, with “If u Care Share Foundation” had been nominated.


In relation to document retention, Members were asked to recall at the January meeting that it had been agreed for secure storage for historic records and to scan records going forward.  The Bereavement Services Manager noted that due to scanning quality issues another company would be required to undertake this element, with the costs as set out within the report.


Councillor C Sproat noted the staffing item, with the advertisement being internal at Durham County Council and Spennymoor Town Council and asked when it would be circulated externally.  The Bereavement Services Manager noted it would be advertised on the North East Jobs Portal initially, then externally and with JobCentre Plus after that.


Councillor A Hopgood noted large financial increases with two of the items mentioned within the report, she asked had they been through the usual procurement process.  The Bereavement Services Manager noted that they had gone through procurement and explained the costs in terms of office accommodation works may yet reduce.  Councillor A Hopgood explained she had experience of contracts and felt that Members should have sight of final figures before being asked to make a decision.  The Bereavement Services Manager noted there was a large contingency within the proposed figures and there were still discussions in terms of the works.  Councillor A Hopgood noted that less than half of the costs appeared to be actual physical works.  The Head of Finance and Transactional Services explained that the report sought a maximum spend with a large contingency as experience at the site, from the cremator replacement works, had shown there was the potential for issues once works began. 

He added that the costs as shown were all of the individual elements broken down and explained that when looking at the SAMP at a future meeting Members would be able to compare to budget estimates.  Councillor A Hopgood asked if the contingency was not used whether it was returned to the budget.  The Head of Finance and Transactional Services noted this was the case, giving an example of the canopies installed at the Crematorium, these being underbudget and the remainder returned to the Major Capital Works Reserve.  Councillor J Chaplow noted the work on the canopies had been completed to a high standard and commended the staff as the work had not impacted upon services.


Councillor P Jopling noted that as there were such differences between figures, she would hope that there would be very stringent controls to keep to the estimated costs and not to overspend further.  The Head of Finance and Transactional Services noted that the Treasury Green Book approach was taken with this recommending an ample contingency in terms of potential unknowns, such as additional groundworks, and changes in costs.


Councillor A Hopgood emphasised she had not questioned the quality of the work to be undertaken or the standards of the Council’s Direct Services staff.  She commended their standards and reiterated that her issue was with the 20 percent increase in cost from the initial estimate.


Councillor B Kellett referred to his finance background and highlighted that the usual approach would be to overbudget up front and therefore he would support the proposals.  The Chair asked for Members if they agreed to the recommendations.




(i)      That the current performance of the Crematorium be noted.

(ii)      That the advertising for relief Crematorium Attendants be noted.

(iii)     That the increased costs with regards to office improvements be agreed.

(iv)     That the attendance of the Chair and the Bereavement Services Manager at        the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM) Learning Convention and Exhibition 2019 be noted.

(v)     That the distribution of recycling income to the respective charities and subsequent charity nomination be noted.

(vi)     That the current situation with regards to document retention be noted.



Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
03000 269 714