To consider a briefing report on Burial Places in Wolverhampton and the Crematorium.
The Head of Environmental Services introduced a briefing note on burial places in Wolverhampton and the Crematorium. The briefing note had been commissioned following a special meeting of the Health Scrutiny Panel which looked at the processes to be followed after a death.
The Head of Environmental Services remarked that there were a number of cemeteries across the City which were closed but the Council were responsible for maintaining. Consideration would need to be given to sustaining burial capacity in the future. The briefing note identified a couple of privately owned sites which could be purchased, with appropriate funding available, to ensure continuity of service at Danescourt and Penn Cemetery.
The Head of Environmental Services stated that Bushbury Crematorium was the 16th busiest individual crematorium out of the 290 crematoria in the UK. It was the busiest individual crematorium in the West Midlands region. Bereavement services were able to cater for the multi-faith needs of the City and provided burial spaces across the cemeteries maintained by the Council.
Members complimented the Head of Environmental Services for providing an informative report on burial places and the crematorium. They also praised the Bereavement Services team for receiving the Gold Award based on national standards.
A Panel Member asked if the estimated financial costs associated with purchasing new land for burial provision could be supplied in the future. The Head of Environmental Services responded that they would have to work with the Corporate Landlord Department and Estate Services to assess which options would be suitable, which would include an assessment of whether the land was fit for burial. They were currently looking at some drainage solutions for Bushbury cemetery to enable more of the ground to be used. He agreed that a future report could detail some of the options in the future.
The Chair asked if the Council was currently in liaison with any private landlords about the potential purchase of land for burial purposes. The Head of Environmental Services responded that there were no current negotiations, but they were looking at certain areas. There was a garage area in Bilston Cemetery, which they were looking at with Corporate Landlord, with a view to demolishing and using the space for future burial provision. Securing future land for burial purposes was very much a work in progress, there was burial space available within the City at the moment.
A Panel Member commented that he thought the owner of the land adjacent to Penn Cemetery was looking to develop the land to keep horses.
A Member of the Panel asked about the ability of Bereavement Services to meet people’s expectations for an expedited burial due to religious reasons. The Head of Environmental Services responded that the service did their very best to accommodate families for faith needs where they could and in the main they were able to meet expectations, but he accepted there were some exceptions, particularly when demand had been high. They were often able to accommodate burials for faith requirements at weekends. It could sometimes depend on the availability of the funeral directors and their availability to liaise with them. It was therefore not solely down to the Council to ensure a burial happened within a certain timeframe, as the Council was reliant on other partners.
A Panel Member asked about availability of the crematorium and the Bereavement Service at weekends. The Head of Environmental Services responded that they did do burials at weekends for faith needs. They were however reliant on funeral directors’ availability and resources such as the availability of the Chapel. The main slots were Monday to Friday with the exception of burials for faith purposes at weekends. Generally, not all of the available slots were filled within the week. They could explore extending the availability but that would have a resource implication.