Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by Southborough Town Council (CEM 25)

INTRODUCTION

  Southborough Cemetery was opened at the turn of the century and has served the local community ever since. Originally managed by Southborough Urban District Council, the responsibility for the Cemetery became Southborough Town Council's in 1974 following Local Government reorganisation.

  The Cemetery is situated on the edge of Southborough Common and is a very attractive, tranquil spot.

CURRENT SET-UP

  At one time the Cemetery boasted up to six full and part-time attendants managing and looking after the 10 acre site. Today just one full time attendant is employed and he receives help on an ad-hoc basis as and when he needs it from the rest of the Town Council's staff.

  The Cemetery consists of the following elements:

    —  One full time Cemetery Attendant.

    —  10 acre site.

    —  One chapel used twice a year.

    —  One cemetery cottage for attendant.

    —  Male/female toilet sited at rear of attendant's cottage.

    —  Various sheds housing necessary equipment.

    —  Various machinery as required. Value around £10,000.

  All grave digging is carried out manually by the Cemetery Attendant.

  The cost of maintaining the Cemetery in Southborough is about £30,000 per annum with an income of between £6,000-£8,000 per annum. This results in a direct cost to the Community Charge Payer of approximately £22,000 per annum or £5 per D Band household. The D Band rate for 1999-2000 was £56.08.

  A further investment of over £30,000 to upgrade the cemetery cottage and the chapel in 2000-2001 has been made and this funding has had to be obtained from the small balances saved over the past three years by the Town Council.

  The cost of managing and maintaining Southborough Cemetery is a large burden on the Town Council which can ill afford to meet the costs. However, the Town Council is extremely accessible and some form of financial support could be considered to help under-funded burial authorities.

  The Town Council is also responsible for a closed cemetery at St Peter's Church on Southborough Common. In order to make this cemetery safe for members of the public and accessible to the disabled an investment of over £5,000 will be required in the next year or so. Once again, the Town Council is unable to meet its financial obligation without raising its precept by a percentage greater than inflation.

MATTERS OF CONCERN

  The following issues are of concern to Southborough Town Council:

    —  Southborough Cemetery is considered to be an important facility available to local residents. However, in most cases the Funeral Directors will recommend the burial of bodies or ashes at the main cemetery in Tunbridge Wells which is run by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. It would be beneficial to Town and Parish Councils for Funeral Directors to be directed to utilise local cemeteries where the deceased may have resided as a first option.

    —  Southborough Cemetery is one of the few facilities provided by the Town Council and the most appreciated especially by the bereaved. However, although there is land available adjacent to the cemetery that could be used for expansion in the future there is no funding available to purchase that land now. A grant system to provide funding to burial authorities to purchase extra land to extend or provide new cemeteries should be set up.

    —  Due to the high costs and low income of Southborough Cemetery there is little capital to invest in the cemetery. Therefore it would be beneficial for a grant system to be made available to Town and Parish Councils to help fund essential health and safety work in cemeteries especially in view of the recent reports that many old tomb and gravestones are unsafe and potentially lethal.

    —  It is imperative that any funding especially from the Lottery should be available to all burial authorities especially Town and Parish Councils and that all funding should be distributed evenly.

    —  Clear guidelines should be drawn up for the management and maintenance of cemeteries especially regarding health and safety issues.

    —  A national long term strategy should be drawn up to ensure that there will be adequate land in the future for cemeteries to enable that those who wish to bury their loved ones will be able to do so.

    —  Further research and investigation should be carried out into alternative methods of burials such as green burials, cremations etc. The findings of these investigations should be made available to all burial authorities.

    —  The responsibilities for closed cemeteries should be reviewed and placed in the hands of those bodies that are able to afford to invest, manage and maintain them in the future ie Borough, District and County Councils.

December 2000


 
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