Clive Andrews, The Surveyor introduced the report, and drew Members attention to the following points:
Councillor Latif asked how much non-discretionary and discretionary fees are. The Surveyor confirmed the non-discretionary fees include the cremation fees and medical fees these are approximately 40% of the overall cost of the service. Councillor Thom asked about Medical fees. The Surveyor advised there will be an update at this years ICCM Learning and Training Convention later this month from Ministry of Justice regarding medical fees and once this is available it will be shared with the Members of the board.
The Surveyor highlighted that according to the Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2016 Funeral Debt for 2016 increased to £147M. Those in debt owed on average £1601 per person for 2016. Councillor Candida Jones asked if there is information on demographic of where that debt is owed. Councillor Latif asked if this debt is usually written off or if individuals are taken to the small claims court. The Surveyor advised this information is not available with regard to the demographics of who owed the debt. He also said it was for the Funeral Director to make a decision on whether to pursue individual funeral debt. Councillor Galligan asked if funeral directors collect fees in advance and the Surveyor confirmed that sometimes fees are requested in advance and that there is a growing move for funeral directors to ask for payment up front.
The Surveyor pointed out that NESC have helped families by giving a less expensive option of cremation fees before 10am. He pointed out that the aforementioned Royal London 2017 report states 6% of people shopped around for different funeral costs. The Surveyor will provide members with a link to the 2017 report for information.
The Surveyor drew Members attention to appendix C showing crematorium costs. In particular the board were reminded of the current breakdown of Crematorium fees charged by NESC for different ages of people using the service. Members were asked if they wish to retain the current age related Cremation fees structure or if they wish to amend this to a nil charge for a 40 minute chapel service and cremation up to the deceased’s eighteenth birthday.
Discussion on this followed and Members pointed out the child age sometimes used is 16 rather than 18. It was clarified that the legal definition of the age of a child is under 18 and Jean Stevenson pointed out state school leaving age has now increased from 16 to 18. Councillor Galligan queried if the charge for children up to 12 should still be made. It was highlighted that in the last year there were only 2 cremations for children under 18. His view was for younger children under 12 would be a good gesture at a very difficult time not to charge this fee. Councillor Candida Jones suggested that it would be a useful to make this service free for all children up to age 18 years of age.
Following further discussion, the Chair Councillor Paul Wingfield asked for a show of hands from members to indicate if they were willing to agree to change and simplify the charging structure of fees for children under 18 and for adults over 18. All members agreed unanimously that they would wish to make this change.
After the agreement to the simplification of charges, a proposal was made by Councillor Candida Jones to make cremation fees for a 40 minute chapel service and cremation up to the deceased’s eighteenth birthday to be at a nil charge from January 2018, this motion was seconded by Councillor Wingfield and considered by the Board. The Board voted unanimously in agreement with this proposal also.
RESOLVED that the North East Surrey Crematorium Board
1 Agreed that the fee for a 40 minute chapel service and cremation up to the deceased’s eighteenth birthday be at a nil fee from January 2018.
Councillor Wingfield raised a question to the Surveyor regarding the cremation fees charged for persons over 18 years of age being lower than other crematoriums. The Surveyor advised the fees are usually reviewed in December annually. Councillor Candida Jones highlighted that as there is funeral poverty highlighted in this report when this is discussed in December it may be difficult to increase the fee. The Treasurer and Surveyor will advise Members as part of the Treasurer’s charges report at the December meeting.
Visits to Funeral Directors Barbara Ward (Bereavement Services Manager,(Enable Leisure and Culture) visited over 60 funeral directors in the area, responses were very positive. No issues were raised for the boards’ attention. In respect of Action Plans Members did not raise any questions on the action plan. In respect of Repair and Renewal Works there were no questions on this or on the capital programme. Members were advised resurfacing of the main drive has taken place. The Surveyor highlighted that the ICCM representative advised that this drive way into the crematorium is in top 5 in the country.
In respect of the installation of the heating system Members were advised that there will not be any impact on the crematorium whilst this work is in progress.This is due for completion by the end of October 2017.