Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by the Audit Commission (CEM 129)

INTRODUCTION

  1.  The Audit Commission is pleased to provide written evidence as part of the inquiry by the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Select Committee into cemeteries.

  2.  The Commission has not published any work focusing solely on the cemeteries. However, through the course of their work the Commission's inspectors and the auditors appointed by the Commission, will look at the local provision of cemeteries as part of the best value performance framework. The Commission has also looked at provision in this area as part of its role in specifying and verifying performance information.

PERFORMANCE INFORMATION (PIS)

  3.  Following the introduction of the best value performance framework the system of local authority performance indicators has changed. The Government took on the major role of specifying service-based indicators for local authorities—the best value performance indicators (BVPIs)—some of which were taken directly from the old Audit Commission peformance indicators (ACPIs). Although the best value legislation did not remove the Commission's statutory responsibility for setting indicators, following consultation with stakeholders the Commission opted not to set PIs for the current year (2001-02). Neither the BVPIs nor the old ACPIs contained indicators that look at the local provision of cemetery services.

  4.  In additon to the statutory obligation to measure BVPIs, authorities are encouraged to set local PIs that reflect their communities' priorities. To assist authorities in developing their own performance measures, the Commission has, in conjunction with the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA), set up a library of local PIs. This is an entirely voluntary service, providing definitions for local PIs in different service areas to avoid duplication of effort in developing PIs, but more importantly to provide standard definitions that enable meaningful comparison.

  5.  Although no local PIs for cemeteries have yet been included in the library, from the initial research for the library it was found that a number of authorities have developed and are using their own local indicators for cemeteries. A website for the library of local PIs lists the examples of those local PIs in use and references those authorities that are using them in order to facilitate networking with other authorities wanting to compare their peformance in this area. A number of authorities have elected to use cemeteries and crematoria performance indicators, under the broader heading of environmental services as part of the best value framework. These cover issues such as:

    —  The percentage of burials accommodated within five working days of notification;

    —  Unit cost per burial (gross); and

    —  Number of woodland graves pre-purchased, providing wider choice of interment options.

  A full list of these indicators and the authorities using them are attached as an appendix.

  6.  The Committee may also be interested to note that the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) publish information from authorities on authorities' actual expenditure on cemeteries. The last publication Cemeteries 1998-99 Actuals can be obtained direct from the CIPFA Statistical Information Service.

  7.  Some local authorities have worked together to form benchmarking groups around this service area. One such group has been formed covering much of Wales and a number of authorities in the South West of England.

AUDIT OF BEST VALUE PERFORMANCE PLANS (BVPPS)

  8.  Under the best value performance framework every authority has to produce a best value performance plan (BVPP). It sets out the authority's key aims and objectives and gives details of its past, present and future performance against targets. This plan should bring together all the areas that the authority is responsible for and should provide the public with commitments to which they can hold an authority to account. Each authority has to agree a programme of best value reviews of services, which will be summarised in the BVPP. Each year, the contents of the plan will be audited by the Commission's auditors to provide assurance that it was prepared and published in accordance with the legislation and guidance.

  9.  Under best value all services have to be reviewed by an authority during the five-year cycle. Authorities are encouraged to critically assess their services and prioritise their review programme over the five-year cycle. The first best value cycle began on 1 April 2000 and as such many authorities have not yet outlined when and how they are going to cover cemeteries. However the legislation requires that all services are reviewed by April 2005.

  10.  If an authority has not planned by the end of the five-year best value cycle to cover all of its service areas—either discretely or as part of a wider review—it would have failed to meet its statutory obligations. So by the end of the first best value cycle an authority should have made provision to review their cemetery provision. Where this is not the case, the auditor would refer to the fact in his/her statutory report on the BVPP, and he/she could, where appropriate, recommend that the Commission should carry out an inspection or that the Secretary of State/National Assembly for Wales should issue a direction.

BEST VALUE INSPECTION SERVICE (BVIS)

  11.  Following an authority's service review the Commission's inspectors test how good the service is, and how likely it is to improve. The intensity of inspections will vary depending on the priorities of the local authority, which services are being reviewed and the quality of the authority's own best value review. In general, inspections will be more extensive in assessing major service areas, or where an authority's own review is not deemed sufficiently rigorous. The first few years of inspection will provide data on baseline performance on which an authority's level of risk can be decided.

  12.  Each year inspectors discuss with authorities, which of the reviews that they have undertaken are a priority for inspection. Many of the year-one reviews which have included cemeteries have not been identified as a priority for inspection, and of those reviews that are going to be covered in an inspection most will be done in a light-touch way, with the focus on the quality of service experienced by users.

  13.  Following the request for information from the Committee, the Commission has carried out a short survey of lead inspectors in authorities where cemeteries have been identified as a focus for review in the first year of the best value regime. Of these authorities most have included their cemetery services as part of a broad review of a group of services, rather than as a discrete focus.

  14.  A few year-one reviews of cemetery services have been identified as priority areas for inspection. These inspections are still in progress and so the findings have not been made public. Some of the issues that have been identified through the inspection process are:

    —  The need for authorities to develop clear service standards for users, particularly taking into account the needs of different faith communities;

    —  The need for authorities to take into account the importance of the service that they provide to relatives of the deceased—there is no second chance to provide a proper funeral;

    —  The need for authorities to take account and plan around the increasing demand for woodland or green burials—with the cemetery or undertakers providing recycled cardboard, wicker, or willow coffins or shrouds; and

    —  Councils should particularly consult on sensitive areas, for example baby and infant graves.

  15.  Of the authorities that have been inspected, at least two ran the review process alongside their application for the Institute of Burials and Crematoriums (IBCA) charter, and this was considered helpful.

  16.  As best value inspection progresses, it is clear that the Commission will be in possession of a great deal of unique information about public services. We will be publishing a series of service specific publications on the theme of "Lessons from Inspection". These publications will further improve our evidence base as to the critical success factors involved in delivering high quality public services.

CONCLUSION

  17.  Although this service constitutes a minor area of local authority expenditure, it is one that impacts on people in a personal way at a highly sensitive time in their lives. The Commission's early work in this area suggests that good practice identified in partnership with the relevant professional bodies should be used to inform any minimum standards. Local PIs could be an effective monitoring mechanism in this area since they allow service delivery to be tailored to local priorities.


Input List number
Detail of PILA
BVPP
Page
ref
Category 1Category 2 Category 3 Authority
name
Authority
type
258UNITARYAvailability of Cremators 158Environmental services Cemeteries & Crematoria North SomersetUnitary
355UNITARYGraves provide for ethnic minorities with certain cultural or religious needs 163Environmental services Cemeteries & Crematoria ReadingUnitary
356UNITARYCremations carried out so that Hindu and Sikh families may take active role in procedures 163Environmental services Cemeteries & Crematoria ReadingUnitary
840UNITARYMax lead-in time between booking and service at Cemeteries 47vvEnvironmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria HerefordshireUnitary
841UNITARYAverage lead-in time between booking and service at cemeteries 47wwEnvironmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria HerefordshireUnitary
842UNITARYNo. of burials per annum 47wwEnvironmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria HerefordshireUnitary
843UNITARYNo of burials of cremated remains per annum 47wwEnvironmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria HerefordshireUnitary
844UNITARYMax lead-in time between booking and service at Crematorium 47wwEnvironmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria HerefordshireUnitary
845UNITARYNo. of times when lead-in time exceeds 7 working days at Crematorium 47wwEnvironmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria HerefordshireUnitary
846UNITARYNo. of cremations per annum 47wwEnvironmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria HerefordshireUnitary
847UNITARYControl of emissions - no. of instances in excess of EPA 47wwEnvironmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria HerefordshireUnitary
1228UNITARYStandard achieved in the Cemetery of the Year competition 92Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria StokeUnitary
1229UNITARY% of internments completed within 3 working days 92Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria StokeUnitary
1230UNITARY% of cremations completed within 2 working days 92Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria StokeUnitary
1231UNITARYCost of Cemeteries and Crematorium Service per head of population 92Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria StokeUnitary
1232UNITARY% of the budget spent on the Cemeteries and Crematorium service 92Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria StokeUnitary
1233UNITARYIncome as a % of expenditure on the disposal 92Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria StokeUnitary
1234UNITARYNo. of "friends of Groups " established in the City 92Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria StokeUnitary
14DISTRICTTime taken to agree burial arrangements with funeral directors 25Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria LewesDistrict
111DISTRICT% extra works orders completed within 14 days 52Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria FenlandDistrict
112DISTRICT% of land where wildlife habitats are created 52Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria FenlandDistrict
221DISTRICT% of burials accommodated within 5 working days of notification 54Environmental Services Cemeteries & crematoria CongletonDistrict
576DISTRICTNumber of woodland graves pre-purchased, providing wider choice of interment options 8.3.6Environmental Services Cemeteries & crematoria MansfieldDistrict
577DISTRICT% of graves prepared in advance of scheduled funeral services 8.3.6Environmental Services Cemeteries & crematoria MansfieldDistrict
892DISTRICT% compliance with Environmental Protection Act cremation emission standards 44Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria CheltenhamDistrict
1099DISTRICTNumber of burials 129Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria GloucesterDistrict
1100DISTRICTNumber of cremations 129Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria GloucesterDistrict
1101DISTRICTIncome from burials and cremations 129Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria GloucesterDistrict
1428DISTRICT% increase in cemetery fees 84Environmental Services Cemeteries & crematoria WinchesterDistrict
1543DISTRICTNumber of hours which public conveniences are closed per annum for maintenance 182Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria WinchesterDistrict
1544DISTRICTNumber of complaints received per year in respect of cleanliness and hygiene at public conveniences 182Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria WinchesterDistrict
38UNITARYNumber of cremations 5d19Environmental services Cemeteries & Crematoria Isle of WightUnitary
39UNITARYNumber of burials 5d20Environmental services Cemeteries & Crematoria Isle of WightUnitary
40UNITARYCost of adult cremation service 5d20Environmental services Cemeteries & Crematoria Isle of WightUnitary
41UNITARYCost of adult burial 5d20Environmental services Cemeteries & Crematoria Isle of WightUnitary
42UNITARYCost of cemetery service per head of population 5d20Environmental services Cemeteries & Crematoria Isle of WightUnitary
43UNITARYCost of cremation service per head of population 5d20Environmental services Cemeteries & Crematoria Isle of WightUnitary
509LONDONPercentage of burials giving rise to complaints 38Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria Barking & DagenhamLondon
Borough
510LONDONPercentage of costs recovered 38Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria Barking & DagenhamLondon
Borough
872LONDONNumber of complaints about the cemeteries per quarter 80Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria BexleyLondon
Borough
992LONDONUnit cost per cremation (gross) 101Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria WandsworthLondon
Borough
993LONDONUnit cost per burial (gross) 101Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria WandsworthLondon
Borough
1126LONDONNumber of cremations 70Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria HaringeyLondon
Borough
1127LONDONPercentage of cremations against capacity 70Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria HaringeyLondon
Borough
1128LONDONNumber of burials 70Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria HaringeyLondon
Borough
1129LONDONPercentage of cremations to local death rate 70Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria HaringeyLondon
Borough
1130LONDONIncome from memorials 70Environmental Services Cemeteries & Crematoria HaringeyLondon Borough
1433UNITARYNo. of burials per annum Appendix 10Environmental Services Cemeteries and crematoria PortsmouthUnitary
238METSCremations carried out on date and time booked 183Environmental services Cemeteries and crematoria OldhamMet
239METSBurials carried out on date and time booked 183Environmental services Cemeteries and crematoria OldhamMet
1030METSNumber of justified complaints about poor delivery of bereavement services 98Environmental Services Cemeteries and crematoria Coventry
1031METSAverage delay between death and provision of a funeral 98Environmental Services Cemeteries and crematoria Coventry
1032METSNumber of post cremation memorials provided as a percentage of total cremations 98Environmental Services Cemeteries and crematoria Coventry
1033METSTime taken to process cemetery memorial applications 98Environmental Services Cemeteries and crematoria Coventry
1034METSTime to raise invoices in bereavement services 98Environmental Services Cemeteries and crematoria Coventry
1239METSProvide an interment facility within 3 working days if requested 137Environmental Services Cemeteries and crematoria Wolverhampton
1240METSProvide interment facility within 1 wkg day for Muslim/Jewish if requested 137Environmental Services Cemeteries and crematoria Wolverhampton
1241METSto provide a cremation facility within 2 wkg days if requested 137Environmental Services Cemeteries and crematoria Wolverhampton
1242METSTo place a temporary memorial on all graves within 10 wkg days 137Environmental Services Cemeteries and crematoria Wolverhampton
1243METSAvg response time for all requests for service 137Environmental Services Cemeteries and crematoria Wolverhampton
740DISTRICT% of invoices requested to be raised for interment fees within 5 working days following the date of interment 37Environmental Services Cemeteries and crematoria MaldonDistrict




 
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