Memorandum by Warrington Borough Council
1.1 Warrington Borough Council has a population
of 190,000 with approximately 80,000 households. To serve this
population the Bereavement Services Section has a crematorium
based at Walton Lea dealing with 1,700 cremations per annum. It
also has four cemeteries as follows:
in 1857 with an acreage of 33.6 acres. This cemetery is now closed
for new burials.
in 1984 with an acreage of 2 acres. This cemetery has a limited
amount of space but is still open for new burials.
in 1900 with an acreage of 1.9 acres. This cemetery has a limited
amount of space but is still open for new burials.
Fox Covert CemeteryOpened
in 1963 with an acreage of 12.25. It has now been necessary to
plan for an extension to the Cemetery. This is the most heavily
used of all the cemeteries accounting for around 80 per cent of
all new burials.
1.2 In addition to the above, Warrington
Borough Council are responsible for the maintenance of 9 closed
1.3 Warrington Borough Council is proud
of the standard of service provided to its residents and is pleased
to report that Bereavement Services are considered to be of a
resonably high priority within the Authority. This is not the
case with many authorities and can often be reflected in the standard
of the service provided.
2.1 There is no doubt that cemeteries attract
high visitor numbers throughout the year, peaking at such times
as Mother's/Father's Day, Easter and Christmas. With suitable
investment and greater initiative from responsible officers, cemeteries
could better meet the needs of the communities in which they are
2.2 The historical value of cemeteries is
well known, although often not taken full advantage of by development
of educational trails tracing local historic events. Again the
lack of development of such historic value comes from a combination
of a lack of suitable funding combined with a lack of vision from
responsible officers who are often poorly paid and lack suitable
2.3 Cemeteries form part of a town or city's
`green lungs' and are of environmental importance for this reason
alone. More than this, consideration should be given to flora
and fauna with steps taken to actively develop wildlife within
the cemeteries. The Church of England funded "living Churchyard
and Cemetery Project" could usefully be adopted by Burial
Authorities along with the IBCA's Charter for the Bereaved and
Best Value Assessment Process.
2.4 To properly meet the needs of the community
as well as promoting historical and environmental issues, Burial
Authorities should consult their key stakeholders and develop
Management Plans for their cemeteries including the range of issues
identified in this section. Due to a shortage of suitably trained
and experienced officers this can be difficult in some smaller
authorities where cemeteries are often low profile. This is certainly
the case in Town and Parish Councils who retain a burial functionthey
often find it difficult to employ a suitably experienced officer.
Given this problem Warrington Borough Council support the call
for cemetery services to be dealt with in a more consistent manner
with joint guidance on a more regional basis.
3.1 Whilst the overall standard of Warrington's
cemeteries are very good in comparison with many in the country
there are still a number of problems that result in standards
being lower than they should be. The following deals with the
types of problems experienced in both Warrington and other cemeteries
throughout the country.
3.2 Dangerous MemorialsMemorials
have been erected in our cemeteries since the middle of the 19th
Century. Prior to this burials were carried out in churchyards,
which are also being transferred to local authorities who then
become responsible for their ongoing maintenance.
Many of these memorials are very large and are
becoming unstable (elsewhere around the country this has resulted
in a number of fatal accidents). It is only recently that it has
become clear that these memorials need to be regularly inspected
and dealt with if they are found to be dangerous. It is clear
from the limited number of cemeteries that have been property
inspected, over the last two or three years, that there are many
thousands of memorials that have become unsafe over the years.
Due to lack of additional funding for this work, there is, no
doubt, a temptation to lay these memorials flat or remove them
from cemeteries, thus simplifying maintenance and avoiding any
further problems with these structures. This type of approach
could soon erode both the aesthetic and historical value that
our cemeteries can offer.
In addition to the deterioration of memorials
is the deterioration of the remainder of the fabric of the cemeteries.
Cemetery chapels, walls, fences etc are often lower on the list
of local authority priorities, as spending budgets are continuously
cut year on year. Such deterioration then attracts vandalism and
misuse, speeding the deterioration.
3.3 New Burials and MemorialisationIt
is clear that costs are beginning to drive the cemeteries function
rather than quality of service. Many burial authorities have restricted
the provision of new burials and memorials to those for lawn cemeteries.
This has been done to reduce maintenance costs, however, what
it also does is restrict choice and diminish the continuance of
traditional skills. These skills are used to make the type of
unique memorials that have been placed in cemeteries in the past
and, therefore, make them such interesting places to visit.
3.4 Grounds MaintenanceStandards
of grounds maintenance are also very variable in cemeteries. Once
again this can relate to the priority cemeteries, and grounds
maintenance in general, are given within the authority. Of course,
grounds maintenance standards are not statutory and are, therefore,
more liable to cost cuts that lower the standards of provision.
In addition to this CCT, whilst initially responsible for some
useful efficiencies, is now responsible for some serious shortcuts
in the provision of the service, unless a disproportionate amount
of money is spent on the monitoring of contracts. This should
be considered during any Best Value reviews that include cemeteries.
Efforts should be made to develop qualitative outcome specifications
and reduce duplication in order that available finances can be
invested directly in the service.
- ROLES AND
4.1 The government should play an active
role in the promotion of Bereavement Services throughout the country
taking a national strategic approach to the disposal of the dead
to achieve consistent standards throughout the country.
4.2 The importance of such a strategic approach
is clear when considering such issues as the disposal of body
parts and the emergency legislation that was rushed through parliament
with little reference to possible consequences, as highlighted
at the time by the Institute of Burial and Cremation Administration.
It is also clear that in passing this legislation an ideal opportunity
to deal with the provision of suitable legislation or the sensitive
disposal of foetal remains was ignored. As a result many thousands
of foetuses are still disposed of as clinical waste. It should
be noted that Alder Hey Hospital has recently been criticised
for keeping foetal remains. If the truth were known about how
the majority of foetuses are disposed of throughout the country
then the British public would be outraged. Bereavement Services
Managers throughout the country have had to deal with mothers
wanting to trace the remains of foetuses disposed of by hospitals
only to find they have been disposed of as clinical waste at a
waste disposal incinerator hundreds of miles away.
4.3 This is not a satisfactory state of
affairs and the government should consider legislation to ensure
the sensitive disposal of foetal remains. The Institute of Burial
and Cremation Administration have produced guidelines on how this
could be achieved and are currently discussing matters with the
Royal College of Nursing to achieve guidelines that meet the needs
of all parties involved, particularly the needs of the parents.
4.4 The government should look at all other
inquiries currently being undertaken where disposal of the dead,
or their body parts, are involved. This would include such inquiries
The Alder Hey Disposal of Body Parts
The OFT Inquiry into Cemeteries and
The Shipman Inquiry and its relevance
in relation to registration and certification of deaths and the
subsequent burial or cremation.
4.5 To improve the status of bereavement
services within local authorities Warrington Borough Council support
the IBCA's bid for a full time inspectorate for cemeteries and
crematoria. Such a body could then police the application of a
national strategic approach to provision, supported by relevant
and informed legislation that could replace many of the now dated
legislation that currently governs burial and cremation. This
would be particularly relevant to private cemeteries, currently
provided under the Cemetery Clauses Act 1847. A more balanced
approach should now be taken to the provision of public and private
cemeteries as there is in legislation governing the provision
and operation of crematoria.
4.6 If a bereavement services inspectorate,
or even an inspector, is not feasible then specific consideration
for cemeteries and crematoria should be given to suitably experienced
Best Value Inspectors. Cemeteries and crematoria could then be
properly assessed following the Best Value Review of the service
which they will form part, unless they happen to be large enough
to be considered autonomously. For the vast majority of services
it is suspected this will be inappropriate.
5.1 This area overlaps to a great extent
with a national strategic approach and what the Government could
achieve in this area. Warrington Borough Council believe that
the Government should place a duty on Burial Authorities to ensure
their area is adequately served by cemetery and crematoria services.
This should include the ability for Burial Authorities to reuse
old and abandoned graves as proposed in the report "Planning
for Burial Space in LondonPolicies for Sustainable Cemeteries
in the New Millennium". The principles included in this report
should be applied as part of a national strategy.
5.2 Probably the most important document
currently available for reference in the long term planning for
new cemeteries and burial space is the Charter for the Bereaved.
This clearly sets out what the public can expect from the provision
of bereavement services. If new provision is to provide the necessary
range of choice and expectation, then design should be based around
the issues contained within the Charter for the Bereaved.
5.3 Warrington Borough Council support the
recommendations contained in the joint report prepared by the
CBA and IBCA titled the Management of Memorials. This contains
advice on inspection of memorials and such issues as the expansion
of customer choice and adjustments to the way in which the right
of burial is controlled, reducing the periods of lease. This is
an important document in the long term planning for the provision
and maintenance of cemeteries.
6.1 StaffThe ability and competence
of staff employed within Bereavement Services varies considerably.
For the service to be managed and developed sensitively and effectively
it is essential that any person appointed to a management post
is a suitably qualified member of the IBCA with sufficient experience.
6.2 ServiceThe IBCA Charter for the
Bereaved defines the rights of those experiencing a bereavement
and sets minimum standards in the provision of Bereavement Services.
In addition it also sets a number of targets for the development
of the service. All burial authorities should be required to meet
the minimum standards contained in the Charter and be encouraged
to work towards achieving the targets identified. Best Value inspectors
can readily monitor progress of burial authorities by utilising
the IBCA Best Value Assessment Process.
Many hazards exist in cemeteries due to unstable
memorials, often as a result of poor workmanship. It is essential
that burial authorities be given the power to provide and install
memorials to help ensure their safe installation. Empowering burial
authorities to provide this and other appropriate funeral services
would also ensure greater competition, providing better value
for money to the public.
7. FUNDING AND
7.1 There have not been many successful
lottery bids for cemetery schemes. Bereavement Services are once
again seen as a Cinderella service and not given sufficient priority
from lottery distributing bodies. As indicated previously, the
service needs to be given a higher status on a national basis.