Joint report of Corporate Director of Neighbourhoods and Climate Change and Corporate Director of Resources and Treasurer to the Joint Committee
The Joint Committee considered a joint report of the Corporate Director of Neighbourhoods and Climate Change and the Corporate Director Resources and Treasurer to the Joint Committee which outlined a range of issues that would be considered as part of medium-term financial planning for the Central Durham Crematorium. The report set out proposals to increase the fees and charges from 2023/24 together with details of the budget planning assumptions over the coming three years (for copy see file of minutes).
The Finance Manager reported that there had been significant capital investment of over £4.1 million at Central Durham Crematorium since Local Government Reorganisation in 2009, with further investments of nearly £2.5 million planned for the coming years in line with the Service Asset Management Plan.
The Finance Manager highlighted the proposals within the report and noted the importance of maintaining sufficient reserves levels to facilitate the planned investment to ensure high performance. On balancing the increase costs for the crematoriums and the cost of living crisis, it was proposed that an increase in fees and charges of £30 in 2023/24 to £795 would be a fair level to protect the capital investment without causing undue strain on the general public. It was noted that Central Durham and Mountsett Crematorium would continue to remain the lowest in comparison with all neighbouring facilities and well below the average costs.
Referring to the national energy inflation increases, the Finance Manager advised that Central Durham Crematorium budget assumptions were in line with Durham County Council’s MTFP model, with energy prices expected to rise further in 2023/24. Assumptions had been built into the medium term budget forecasts at this stage. Following Government announcements to tackle the energy crisis, updates and revised forecasts would be reported to future meetings of the Joint Committee.
Councillor S Quinn acknowledged the need to remain competitive and agreed with the recommendations, adding that various funeral options were available for families who have financial difficulties.
Responding to a query from Councillor K Fantarrow regarding financial help for families who are unable to afford cremations, the Bereavement Services Manager and Registrar advised that circumstance would have to qualify under the Public Health Act for the crematorium to step in, following instructions from the coroner.
Councillor D Ranyard acknowledged the need to be prudent during the current financial climate and the investment that would be required going forward, however queried if there was scope to increase the surplus distribution by a small percentage. He added that Spennymoor Town Council were under increasing financial pressures and any additional funds from the surplus distribution would help alleviate some pressures. The Finance Manager advised that during the current financial pressures it would be sensibly for distributions to remain the same, however it would considered further during the budget setting process.
(i) That the contents of the report be noted;
(ii) That the proposed increase in the fees and charges as identified in the report be approved;
(iii) That the budget strategy be reviewed in September 2023 in preparation for the 2024/25 budget setting year.