Agenda item

Update on Teesside Crematorium Income

The Head of Property and Commercial Services will be in attendance to provide an update on Teesside Crematorium following the scrutiny review undertaken in 2020.


RECOMMENDATION that the Panel considers whether further updates are required and the frequency of any such updates.


In 2020 the Panel undertook a scrutiny review to examine any potential impacts of bereavement services offered by neighbouring local authorities on those provided by Middlesbrough Council at Teesside Crematorium.  One of the recommendations of that review was that a six monthly update on income and any mitigation required should be provided to the Scrutiny Panel until further notice.


The Director of Environment and Community Services provided the latest update in relation to the Bereavement Services. 


Originally, the Teesside Crematorium had provided services for the whole of the area. However Hartlepool, Redcar and Stockton On Tees had now opened their own facilities.


Middlesbrough’s Bereavement Services included:


           Cremation and Burial Services.

           Teesside Crematorium – Crematory and two chapels for funeral and memorial services.

           Six Cemeteries: Acklam Cemetery, Thorntree (Protestant) Cemetery,

Thorntree Roman Catholic Cemetery, Linthorpe Cemetery and Nature Reserve, St Joseph’s Cemetery and North Ormesby Cemetery.

           Burial and Cremation record management and compliance.


           Supplementary Maintenance (Memorial areas, grave maintenance).

           Customer Service – Public enquiries, bereavement support.

           Headstone safety testing (a statutory requirement).


Recent improvements included:


           A new Media/Tribute system – Obitus - had been installed in the Chapels. 

           Committal buttons had been installed to lectern devices.

           New footpaths had been installed in Acklam Cemetery and footpath repair works were scheduled.

           Digitisation. Online forms were now available for memorial purchases.

           Improved Burial appearance.  The soil was taken away from the graveside prior to interment.  

           Training and Development.  Industry standard training (Institute of Cemetery Management and Compliance) had been undertaken as follows:

           Five additional members of staff recently qualified to ICCM CTTS qualification (Cremation Technician).

           Exhumation training, Cemetery Management Training, CRUSE Bereavement Training and others.

           ICCM Cemetery and Crematorium Management Diploma – one ongoing.

           Middlesbrough Council had been awarded the APSE Performance Network Award for Best Performing Cemetery and Crematorium Service 2021.

           Income from metal recycled from the facility was given to charity each year.


The charities benefitting from the scheme in 2022 were the Friends of Linthorpe Cemetery and Nature Reserve and the Friends of Thorntree Cemetery.


A financial summary of the Crematorium’s income was provided in the presentation.  The 2021-2022 income target had not been met and the potential impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on mortality rates were not yet fully known.  £150,000 additional funds had been allocated in the Council’s current Medium Term Financial Plan to cover some of the pressures in the Service.  Rising energy costs would have a significant factor on the service. 


The Council had increased cremation prices by 1% this year, with inflation running at 3%.  Inflation was now running at almost 10% and therefore prices would be kept under review.


Future plans for Bereavement Services included:


           Review pricing model annually.

           Further digitisation:  Plotbox and Digital Grave mapping 2023 onwards, subject to financial approval.

           Develop and review service offers.


It was suggested that the Scrutiny Panel would receive further updates annually rather than every six months.


With regard to land available for burials in Middlesbrough it was confirmed that most of the future cemetery provision would be in Acklam and plots could no longer be pre-purchased.   There was currently around 15 years of burial space left in Acklam. There had been a natural move away from burial towards cremation. 


One of the services now offered by Middlesbrough Council was a direct cremation, which was less costly than a traditional funeral.  This was an unattended cremation whereby the deceased was cremated without a service at the crematorium.  The cremated remains could be returned to a family member or scattered in the gardens of remembrance at the crematorium.   Direct cremations were arranged by Funeral Directors rather than the Council.


In response to a query about liquid or water cremation, it was explained that these were relatively new methods and not yet widely in use in the United Kingdom.  Middlesbrough Council would not consider these options until they were common practice.


AGREED as follows that:

1.  the information provided was received and noted.

2.  future updates would be provided to the Scrutiny Panel annually.

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