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Agenda item

Performance and Operational Report

Report of the Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar.

Minutes:

The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar 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 increased slightly in comparison to the same period the previous year, albeit with sales being £3,007 less than the comparable period last year.

 

The Joint Committee were reminded that the Technical Assistant post had been created and advertised, with four applicants having been shortlisted.  It was noted that the successful applicant, the former business administration apprentice, took up the role on 3 August 2020.  Members were informed that as a result of the extra pressure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, additional staff from other areas within the County Council were brought in to help cope with demand.  The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar noted the arrangements made in terms of providing training while maintaining operational cover, and the shift patterns used to meet the increased demand.

 

In respect of the Recycling of Metals Scheme, Members were asked to recall a surplus nationally in 2019 and that there was to have been a second round of allocations.  The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar explained a cheque in the sum of £10,000 was handed to the Friends of Durham Woodland Cemetery, albeit without the usual involvement of the Chair and Vice-Chair due to COVID-19 restrictions, and a copy of a letter of thanks from the Friends of Durham Woodland Cemetery was attached to the report.

 

Councillors were reminded that the Crematorium was to have taken part in the Durham “Heritage Open Days” programme and noted those events had been cancelled as a result of COVID-19.

 

The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar asked Members to recall that the Joint Committee had agreed at the January 2020 meeting to increase the cremation fee on 1 April 2020 from £700 to £720. 

He added that due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision had been taken to freeze the price at £700, in line with similar actions taken by other Local Authorities.  Members noted this resulted in a reduced revenue of £26,660 compared to the forecast.  It was explained that other Local Authorities were now reverting to their planned 2020/21 fees and, accordingly, the options for the Joint Committee would be to continue at the £700 level or to implement the £720 fee from 1 November 2020.  It was explained there had been a similar situation across Local Authorities in terms of a freeze in respect of charges for webcasts of services, and options were to remain free or to increase to the previously planned fee of £48 from 1 November 2020.

 

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 J Blakey wished her thanks to all the staff at the Crematorium be noted, both those permanent and those that had been redeployed to help with the increased demand.  The Chair asked that the thanks on behalf of the Joint Committee be passed on to all staff.  He added that he noted comments from members of the public had been very positive in terms of the Crematorium during such a difficult period.

 

Town Councillor D Ranyard echoed the comments made and especially thanked those redeployed staff doing a great job.  He asked as regards proposed works to be carried out at the Crematorium, including two-way passing at the entrance to the site and what progress had been made, as the works had previously been set out as a priority within the SAMP, which had noted a completion date of March 2020.  The Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar noted that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic it was felt unreasonable at the time and the works were rescheduled, to be completed at a future date.

         

Resolved:

 

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

(ii)      That the updated position with regards to the Technical Assistant post        be noted.

(iii)     That the updated position with regards to the recycling of metals       scheme be noted.

(iv)     That the options available for the cremation fee be noted and that Option 2, reinstatement of the full 2020/21 fee from 1 November 2020 be approved.

(v)     That the options available for the provision of webcasts be noted and that Option 2, recommencement of the fees from 1 November 2020 be approved.

(vi)     That content of the Service Asset Management Plan attached at Appendix 3, which will be factored into budget planning for 2021/22 and beyond be approved.

 

Supporting documents:

 

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