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Agenda item

Quarterly Performance and Operational Report

Report of the Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar.

Minutes:

The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar, Graham Harrison asked Members to note the performance figures from 1 June 2019 to 31 August 2019 and the comparison to the same period for 2018, highlighting that there was a net decrease of 26 cremations year on year.  It was noted there was a total of 516 for the three-month period with the June to August profile breakdown showing 165 from Durham, 23 from Spennymoor and 328 from outside of the area.

 

Members were asked to note that the number of memorials sold had increase slightly in comparison to the same period the previous year, with sales being £2,031 greater than the comparable period last year.

 

Councillors noted that for the eighth year running the Crematorium, in a joint bid with the South Road Cemetery, had achieved the Green Flag Award.  It was added this was testimony to the dedication of the staff working at the Crematorium and South Road Cemetery and was in addition to the award of Gold Star Status by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management. 

Members were reminded of the advertising of Relief Crematorium Attendant posts, agreed at the April meeting of the Joint Committee.  The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar noted that three applicants were shortlisted, one attended interview and that candidate had been successful.  He added the remaining posts would be advertised again in the coming weeks.

 

The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar reminded Members that the Crematorium had taken part in the Durham “Heritage Open Days” programme and noted it had been a very enjoyable event with around 100 attendees over the weekend.

 

The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar referred Members to information as regards “water cremation” a new, greener alternative to flame cremation and noted that this was an emerging option, with Water Authorities currently looking at the implications in terms of industry trials that have taken place.

 

The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar referred Members to the Service Asset Management Plan (SAMP) appended to the report which set out a number of proposed works, set out by priority: priority one; priority two; priority three; and longer-term works. 

 

The Chair thanked the Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar and asked for comments and questions.

 

Councillor A Hopgood asked how ashes were obtained from water cremations and what chemicals were used.  The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar explained that there was no coffin, the body was contained within a shroud and placed in warm water and with an alkali solution which would break down the body naturally.  He explained the skeleton would then remain and go through a drying process and cremulator to produce ash.  He added five trials had been undertaken in the UK so far, with testing by Water Authorities to confirm whether they would be granted approval.  The Head of Finance and Transactional Services noted they were already in use in the USA and were a more environmentally friendly method, with no emissions.  He added it may be an option in the future, alongside the existing cremators, with water cremations being a longer process.  The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar noted around four hours for a water cremation, with a flame cremation taking around one hour.

 

Town Councillor C Sproat asked as regards the cost of a water cremation relative to a flame cremation.  The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar noted the costs of the equipment, with the water cremation equipment being slightly cheaper, although noting the slower rate of the process.

 

Councillor P Jopling asked if the water would return straight into the water course.  The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar noted while there would be a holding tank, this would be prior to treatment before return to the water system.  He added the results from the Water Authorities testing was due to be reported soon. 

 

Councillor D Brown asked if any such new equipment could be included within the existing footprint of the building or if it would require additional extension works.  The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar noted that given the size of the equipment a small extension would be required, with a space within the existing service yard having been identified as a possible location.

 

Councillor J Blakey asked as regards the issue of attendants handling bodies in the case of a water cremation, with no coffin being used.  The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar noted the body would be contained within a shroud and inserted into the equipment together with the shroud.

         

Resolved:

 

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

(ii)      That the continued success with the Green Flag Award be noted.

(iii)     That the updated position with regards the relief Crematorium Attendants be noted.

(iv)     That the Crematorium’s involvement in the Durham Heritage Open    Days programme be noted.

(v)     That the potential to introduce water cremations in the future be noted.

(vi)     That content of the Service Asset Management Plan attached at Appendix 3, which will be factored into budget planning for 2020/21 and beyond be approved.

 

Supporting documents:

 

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