This report will be pre-scrutinised at a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee due to take place on Monday, 13th December 2021. Any recommendations arising from this meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the subject of this report will be reported for the Executive Committee’s consideration in a supplementary agenda pack.
The Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services introduced the New Cemetery Provision report for the Executive Committee’s consideration.
Members were advised that the issue of a reduction in capacity, in terms of new burial provision in the Borough, had been identified and discussed by Members since 2010. Since then, the availability of burial space in the Borough at existing cemeteries had decreased further.
There were two options available to the Council moving forward:
a) To provide no more new burial sites for the use of residents in the Borough. There was the possibility, though no guarantee, that a private sector provider would provide a burial service in this scenario. The Council would have no influence over the land that a private provider would purchase for a cemetery in this situation nor could the Council control how the service was delivered.
b) The Council could take action to ensure that new burial provision could be made available to Redditch residents in the future. Should Members prefer this option, consideration needed to be given to the appropriate location for the site of new graves. This could include reusing burial plots at the Plymouth Road Cemetery, although this would potentially be morally questionable, given the Council had access to land that could be used for burial purposes. There was also land at other sites, including at Bordesley Abbey and land off Ipsley Church Lane which could potentially be used for this purpose.
There was approximately 18 months of burial site provision remaining in existing cemeteries managed by the Council. The Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services expressed concerns that if no decision was taken, space for new burial provision would run out, leaving many families without a place in the Borough to bury their loved ones. This would impact on families who did not have access to pre-purchased plots in existing cemeteries, potentially resulting in a two-tier system in the Borough whereby some families would be able to bury loved ones in existing family burial sites whilst others would need to travel outside the Borough. The Executive Committee was asked to note that this could have a particularly significant impact on families from more deprived backgrounds, who might struggle to travel to alternative sites outside the Borough.
The Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services commented that the Council’s preferred option would be to continue to deliver new burial provision in the Borough. The preferred site of the Council was land off Ipsley Church Lane. He concluded by stating that, given the circumstances, it would be a derogation of duty for the Executive Committee not to make decisions on this subject during the meeting.
Following the introduction from the Portfolio Holder for Environmental Services, the Bereavement Services Manager delivered a presentation and in doing so highlighted a number of areas for Members’ consideration:
· The Council already operated three cemeteries and four closed church yards.
· Plymouth Road Cemetery was already closed to new burials, whereby a grave was used for the first time by a family. Burials continued ... view the full minutes text for item 51