This report is provided to allow the Board to consider proposals on Fees and Charges, the Management Agreement Annual Budget, the Board’s Annual Budget and the Distribution of Surplus and to provide an update on the work of the External Auditors in relation to the Annual Governance and Accountability Return for the Year Ended 31 March 2019.
The report was presented by Mark Davies, the Treasurer, to the Board. He spoke through each Appendix to draw Board Members attention to key points. In respect of Appendix A, the review of fees and charges. It was highlighted that fees and charges are generally to be increased in line with inflation, as RPI increased by 2.4 % based on the 2019 index. It was confirmed that NESC is one of the cheapest and even with the proposed increase to £605 for a standard cremation fee the charge is still very competitive, compared to other crematoriums, both locally and nationally. It was confirmed that in relation to national statistics NESC is still in the cheapest 5% in respect of level of charges in the country. In particular they asked for details of Direct cremations. The Board were advised that this would be where a funeral director requests a cremation only with no service. These are mainly used for Council contracts where there are no living family members to attend any service hence the reduced fee. It was confirmed that early morning services at broadly half the standard fee are still available.
In debate members indicated that they would wish to keep the actual cremation cost as low as possible but to continue to increase charges in line with RPI and to cover increases in costs. In respect of Appendix B the Management Agreement, the Treasurer spoke through the main differences as detailed in the report.
Members requested further information regarding energy efficiency of the cremators and if there are plans for the future to use more renewable sources of energy other than gas. The Surveyor confirmed that a number of steps have already been taken to improve efficiency and he outlined these accordingly. He highlighted that the new cremators which have recently been installed are much more efficient and this is evidenced through the reduced gas costs. In addition to improved machinery there have also been improvements in working practice. Electric cremators were tried within the industry but could not compete with gas fuelled cremators. Availability of suitable electric cremators will be investigated at the end of the life span of the current equipment in 10 -15 years-time.
In respect of Appendix C the Boards annual budget for income and expenditure the Treasurer spoke through the proposals. It was confirmed to Members that budget provision for ashes lawn had been increased to allow financial capacity for either option to progress following the consultation. It was also confirmed that there is an ongoing budget provision within the plan to give some flexibility to consider future capital expenditure and continued investment. In respect of Appendix D regarding the Distribution of Surplus Balances it was confirmed the funds will be distributed to the three constituent authorities before Christmas. Finally in respect of Appendix E relating to the conclusion of the External Audit following approval of accounts on 21 June, the Board were advised that the audit was concluded in September, and no matters of concern were raised by the auditors, as part of the process.
1. In relation to Appendix A, the Annual Review of Fees and Charges:
a) The Fees and Charges be agreed to take effect from the 1 January 2020.
2. In relation to Appendix B, the Management Agreement Annual Budget:
a) The revised Management Agreement Annual budget for 2019/20 be agreed, and
b) The original Management Agreement Annual budget for 2020/21 be agreed.
3. In relation to Appendix C, the Income and Expenditure Estimates and the Board’s Annual Budget:
a) The revised Income and Expenditure Estimates and the Board’s Annual budget for 2019/20 be approved;
b) The original Income and Expenditure Estimates and the Board’s Annual budget for 2020/21;be approved and,
c) Payments be authorised to be made within these approved estimates.
4. In relation to Appendix D, the Distribution of Balances to Constituent Authorities:
(a) The distribution of £500,000 of its surplus balances in 2019/20 and the proposed distribution to Constituent Authorities be approved.
5. In relation to Appendix E, the Conclusion of the External Audit for the Year Ended 31 March 2019:
a) The audited Annual Governance and Accountability Return for the year ended 31 March 2019 be approved.