Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by the London Borough of Bromley (CEM 63)

  Thank you for your recent letter seeking information to underpin your inquiry. I enclose as an appendix two booklets designed for customers making initial selection and dealing with memorials/aftercare. In addition attached is a copy of our customer promise and perhaps most interestingly a report into the location of a potential new cemetery to deal with the lack of space still available in which to bury parishioners[26].

  I trust that these appendices give some indication of the level of service that the Authority has sought to assist within its customer care profile. However, there are a number of issues that we are currently considering that raise broader questions of Cemeteries on a national scale. These can be summarised as:-


  The enclosed report outlines the difficulties in locating new burial land with the requirements it needs often being in conflict with other Council requirements. The biggest stumbling blocks appear from our perspective to be firstly proximity to watercourses or underground water, which preclude use as a cemetery land at a number of locations and secondly the significant demand on authorities to provide direct or indirect housing on any suitable land. Clearly, in every case, such housing will always seek precedence over burial of the dead. This means identification of cemetery land always flags up areas for potential housing, which Local Authorities must consider in their disposal plan, in accord with financial maximisation laid down by the District Valuer. There have been several studies (ie University of York—Dr Rugg 1998) on the issue of providing burial space, but few to date have addressed the practical issues facing Councils and these conflicts. The DETR needs to consider what relaxations or assistance it can provide to ensure burial for the future remains a choice for local communities.


  Bromley currently has 2FTE staff engaged on the management and maintenance of its 7 cemeteries and 12 Closed Churchyards. This covers the administration of burials and associated paperwork, the management of a grounds maintenance contractor for landscape maintenance and burial activity, and other related management to develop the service, assets and facilities. Under Best Value we are investigating the computerisation of records at one level to assist in the administration, but also looking at the viability of potentially outsourcing the administrative and managerial service to an independent contractor at another level.

  This approach will need to be carefully considered by elected Members in due course, but their deliberations will centre around the undoubted duplication of roles performed by both client and contractor, that must be common throughout those Authorities who have already outsourced the maintenance function under former CCT requirements.

  There is a repetition of roles between the client inspecting officer and foreman of the cemetery contractor. Additionally, there are very close similarities between the council's and the contractor's administration. Accordingly, our initial thoughts suggest that in order to provide a more cost-effective service for providers and receivers, appropriately qualified contractors currently providing burial undertakings and maintenance could quite easily perform more of the administrative functions currently performed by the council. This could reduce in our case the staffing by possibly 50 per cent, with such savings being passed onto the customer, or reducing the Local Authority subsidy.

Patrick K Phillips

Grounds Maintenance Manager

December 2000

26   Not printed. Back

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