Further to Minute No. 103 of the meeting of the Improving Places Select Commission held on 3rd January, 2018, consideration was given to a report of the Superintendent Registrar concerning the monitoring of the performance of the contractual agreement which the Council has with Dignity Funerals Ltd. for the provision of bereavement services for the Rotherham Borough area.
Councillor Hoddinott (Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety) spoke about the requirement for Dignity Funerals Ltd. to provide a comprehensive performance report about the bereavement services for scrutiny by Elected Members of the Council.
The Select Commission welcomed Mr. S. Gant and Mrs. N. Cooke (both of Dignity Funerals Ltd.) who explained the improved relations between Dignity Funerals Ltd. and the Borough Council and the way in which the contractual agreement and performance of service delivery was being monitored. In presenting the Annual Performance Report from Dignity Funerals Ltd. the specific details mentioned were:-
(i) the Company making significant financial investment in capital works and maintenance at the East Herringthorpe Cemetery and Crematorium and the eight other Municipal cemeteries located throughout the Borough area;
(ii) Dignity Funerals Ltd. have improved performance during the past year, although there are some services not yet being offered (eg: woodland burials);
(iii) details of the company’s service delivery throughout the country and the use being made of surveys and feedback from the public, clients, funeral directors and other interested parties; the use and effectiveness of surveys was still under review by the Company;
(iv) the scanning of older burial records, to make such records available by electronic means and thereby preserving the original records (some of which are in a delicate condition and require careful handling under appropriate supervision);
(v) Dignity Funerals Ltd. comply in full with the General Data Protection Regulation requirements;
(vi) staff training within the Company;
(vii) an explanation of the refurbishment work on the Chapel at the East Herringthorpe Cemetery, due to open during September, 2018 (the project include increased capacity to accommodate people attending funerals, the provision of a new Book of remembrance, the installation of the Wesley Media System and refurbished waiting and toilet facilities); (Members were invited to visit the Chapel for a guided tour of the project works);
(viii) the management of vehicular traffic within the East Herringthorpe Cemetery remains a difficult issue to manage.
The following issues were highlighted by Members during discussion and questions/answers:-
: the care being taken with to preserve older burial records; the costs of scanning and the availability of burial records by electronic means in the future;
: operational performance targets and the need to ensure that each funeral service is conducted correctly and is not unduly hurried;
: some maintenance works are retained by the Council (eg: the chapel and the boundary wall at the Masbrough cemetery);
: the forthcoming establishment of a Project Liaison Group, with representation from the Borough Council and from Dignity Funerals Ltd.; one of the functions of the Project Liaison Group will be to meet with representatives of the Borough’s communities and faith groups and discuss the specific requirements for burials of the deceased of particular faith groups; availability of minutes of meetings as a means of providing information about current issues under consideration;
: the use of ‘mystery shopper’ exercises to ensure the maintenance of required standards of service;
: comparing the hours when the bereavement services are open and available to the public with those of neighbouring and similar local authorities; it was noted that the hours are specified within the contractual agreement;
: the implications for the delivery of bereavement services of the Court judgement in the case of Adath Yisroel Burial Society v HM Senior Coroner for Inner North London (case heard on 27 and 28 March 2018);
: grounds maintenance undertaken by Glendale Ltd.; the process for the re-tendering for this contract is due to begin during 2019;
: the suggestion of an open day for the refurbished Crematorium Chapel;
: liaison meeting with Funeral Directors; liaison with community groups and “friends of ..” organisations;
: traffic management difficulties during the period of the refurbishment project of the Chapel at the East Herringthorpe Cemetery;
: health, welfare and safety and the regular testing of equipment;
: consideration of investment in modern, fuel-efficient cremators;
: the availability of burial space capacity around the Rotherham Borough area (eg: churches and Parish Councils); producing forward plans for the possibility of obtaining land to extend cemeteries; the role of the Environment Agency in assessing applications for new cemeteries or for extensions to existing cemeteries;
: the routine monitoring of contract performance, including all aspects of inspection (eg: Environmental Health); noting that there is now an officer of the Council as the initial, single point of contact in respect of the contractual agreement.
Resolved:- (1) That the report be received and its contents noted.
(2) That the progress made on establishing the new contract management arrangements be noted.
(3) That the Annual Performance Report from Dignity Funerals Ltd. as now submitted, be received and its contents noted.
(4) That future performance reports shall wherever possible utilise the red-amber-green (RAG) method of reporting on individual performance items.
(5) That the establishment of a Project Liaison Group, to facilitate discussions with the community and with faith groups about bereavement, burial and cremation issues, be supported.
(6) That the minutes of the meetings of the liaison/sub-group, referred to at (5) above, be submitted for information to meetings of the Improving Places Select Commission.
(7) That a further progress report about the performance of the bereavement services contract be submitted to a meeting of the Improving Places Select Commission to be held early in 2019.