TAMESIDE RESIDENTS WILL HAVE TO DIG-DEEP FOR FUNERALS AS DUKINFIELD CREMATORIUM UPGRADE TO COST £1M+ EXTRA
In a statement from bosses who dwell within Tameside council’s inner sanctum, we are informed that our town hall chiefs are to upgrade Tameside’s Crematoria and Cemetery walls, despite costs soaring by £1.06m more than predicted.
They say that plans to replace the three cremators at Dukinfield Crematorium have been signed off by the borough’s executive cabinet.
The work had initially been priced at £1.5m, but now this figure has risen to an indicative cost of £2.5m, which could increase again during the process of tendering for a contractor.
They then go on to explain why this work is needed, but carefully avoid explaining how an initial estimate of £1.5million could possibly increase to £2.6million. Neither do they shine a light on the increased estimate of £60,000 to restore and repair a number of cemetery walls across the borough!
The council’s report reveals that the cremators – which are 20 years old – are at the end of their life expectancy, and are susceptible to ‘mechanical breakdown’ and maintenance costs are increasing ‘all the time’.
Dukinfield is the third busiest crematorium in Greater Manchester and currently bereavement services bring in income of around £1.2m for the town hall.
(NB: over 20 years income to the council has been £24million)
But charges could rise for families in the future, as bosses are proposing to introduce an ‘environmental levy’ on each cremation which would create a financial reserve used to maintain the cremators.
They estimate this would be around £100,000 a year, which based on their usual annual figure of more than 2,000 cremations annually would increase charges for grieving families by an extra £50.
A ‘heat recovery’ system would also be fitted which would be used to capture the energy from the excess heat in order to heat the crematorium.
Ian Saxon, director of operations and neighbourhoods said: “The cremators were last replaced in 1998 with a 15 year life, so it is well overdue, but there is clearly an income stream that will payback that service.”
(An understatement if ever I’ve heard one!)
He went on to say,“The other element of that report is that we create a sinking fund, or whatever you want to call it, from the income generated so long term it is building a pot to replace these in the future rather than be a one-off call on the capital programme.”
He added: “Obviously it’s a sensitive area but the replacement of the cremators is significant for ensuring that the cremation process is as environmentally sensitive as it can be.
“And that will be a significant step forward, as well as the heat recovery in there so that there is little or no wasted heat.”
The town hall has also agreed to restore and repair cemetery walls across the borough, at a cost of £260,000 – which is £60,000 more than had been originally earmarked.
The bill has risen following an inspection of Tameside’s eight cemeteries by structural engineers.
(So who inspected the eight cemeteries which gave rise to the original £200,000 figure and why was it £60,000 underestimated?)
Mr Saxon told cabinet members that they had identified a number of retaining walls that are in ‘poor condition’ and need to be repaired and maintained.
“The risk of not carrying out the repairs and restoration could result in jeopardising the safety of residents and aesthetics of the cemetery.
“In addition it would lead to on-going revenue costs,” states a report presented to cabinet.
(A Report presented by who and what was the council’s brief?)
“Workers will now repair and make safe the boundary walls highlighted at ‘high and medium risk’ at Ashton, Dukinfield, Mossley, and Mottram cemeteries.
They will also carry out limited masonry work on defects on boundaries – such as metal railings and fencing – at Audenshaw, Denton and Droylsden cemeteries.
The oldest cemetery managed by the council is Mottram Cemetery, which opened in 1861 and is still being used for interments in new graves, as are all the other sites.”
NB: So according to the councils own figures, over the last 20 years, they have enjoyed an income stream from Dukinfield cemetery of £24million. (£1.2million per year)
They now need to spend £2.4million on replacing the cremators and a further £260.000 on securing dangerous cemetery walls and other infrastructure maintenance.
Let’s be generous and assume that they have spent £100,000 per year, every year, for the last 20 years on what they call ‘maintenance’ - that totals another £2million.
Let’s also recognise that another major expenditure for the crematorium is gas; and based on the council’s figures of 2000 cremations per year-the average gas bill (which directly correlates to the number of cremations) we could confidently predict an approximate figure of £55,350.00 per annum; -over 20 years that adds approximately £1.17million to the council’s costs.
Removing all these past expenses and the estimated future refurbishment and maintenance figures (which total: £4.660.000.) Tameside council have still enjoyed an income of £18,270,000. - Over a twenty year period, on this one crematorium. Tameside council operate a further, albeit smaller crematoriums’, which would add significantly to the council coffers.
Despite the considerable income the council generates from these cemeteries, they now intend to add more Tameside residents hard earned money to their bottom line by creating and adding an ‘environmental levy’ of approx £50.00 on around 2000 grieving families; which will add a further £100.000 per year to the council’s coffers, plus a ‘sinking fund’ which in effect is purely ‘council speak’ for ‘ring-fencing’ a portion of the crematorium income for essential maintenance!
Whilst local authorities remain the largest providers of crematoriums throughout the UK, because of their failure to invest in their crematoriums coupled with the continuing rise in cremation fees, has attracted a new wave of private companies into the British market that are keen to win business from council-run services hit by local government cuts; - a threat that could hurt them financially.
Let’s not forget, crematoria, along with council car parks, are probably the two of the larger income generators for local authorities, so it’s little wonder that they are constantly increasing their fees to offset cuts elsewhere.
NB: It’s useful to know that the average ‘Cremation costs’ in the North West is £1121.00.
Plus, let us not forget additional costs NOT mentioned by the council are the fees they charge for burials; which again the average costs throughout the North West is £1674.00.
Research shows that 77% of funerals in the UK are cremations, while 23% are burials.
Taking these figures into account we can add an approximate figure of £27,600 per annum into the council’s coffers. (over 20years that’s £520.000) from this crematorium alone!
Don’t you just love this council?