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Agenda item

Agreement between Dignity Funerals Ltd and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council - Update


Polly Hamilton, Assistant Director, Culture, Sport and Tourism, presented an update on the progress made against the recommendations of the Improving Places Select Commission held on 14th February, 2019.


Also in attendance were:-


Louise Sennitt, Superintendent Registrar/Contract Manager, RMBC

Steve Gant, Dignity

Nicola Cook, Dignity

Sam Fletcher, Rotherham Manager, Dignity.


There had been significant progress made over the last year.  Regular monitoring and dialogue took place between the Council and Dignity as well as a number of systems and processes by which to check with the wider community and those with protected characteristics.


The report set out the progress made against the Select Commission’s recommendations of 14th February, 2019.


Discussion ensued with the following issues raised/clarified:-


-          Provision of environmentally friendly burial options – work was taking place to consider different options in terms of suitable land.  There was one environmentally friendly burial site not too far from Rotherham owned by another company; Dignity had one environmentally friendly burial section in one of their cemeteries.  It was something that was definitely gaining a lot of interest but Dignity's current experience was that there was not a great deal of uptake


It was noted that Councillor Hoddinott had been looking into good practice in other local authorities.  There were some other authorities who Rotherham could perhaps learn from and potential site visits that could be undertaken in the future


Before any decision was made, the Council would follow its consultation policy and process to establish if there was the demand for such facility from the general public.  Initial engagement had been made with Ward Members with regard to potential sites who had raised the issue of communication and consultation


-          Although the main driveway at Ridgeway was in good order, a number of the side roads were showing signs of potholes.  Dignity undertook to ensure the Grounds Maintenance Team carried out checks


-          Cemetery testing was a priority throughout all the cemeteries.  Dignity was currently progressing an inhouse system to make that more effective which would be rolled out as and when


-          Clarification that Psalters Lane Cemetery was listed as “Masbrough”


-          The secure storage for registers and records had been a big project for Dignity to find suitable storage methods as well as the legislation having changed since the original contract.  A third and final quote was awaited for comparison purposes but it was hoped by the end of the year to have the safes installed to store all of the records.  Scanning would also be explored to provide extra security.  Initially consideration had been given to scanning and then removal of the documents to an offsite facility, however, there was a lot of interest from members of the public in seeing the physical registers and felt it would be unreasonable to move them off site


-          Appreciation by the Muslim community for listening to them and the provision of extended hours to facilitate Muslim burials


-          Issue of some of the Muslim graves being waterlogged – when preparing the new section for Muslim graves, the Grounds Maintenance Team had found a pipe which had flooded the area.  Despite best efforts the problem had not been solved as yet and water was continuing to be pumped out so they could be used.  Ongoing investigations were taking place to ascertain the source of the water


-          After hours burials charge – this was an agenda item for the next Project Liaison Group.  Dignity was charged a fee which was then passed onto the client.  There was constant discussion regarding the fee and it was hoped a resolution would be reached that suited all parties


-          Future land for Muslim burial sites – Dignity had maps showing their burial land and able to forecast where provision could be extended.  This information would be provided to the Select Commission


The Chair thanked Dignity and relevant officers for their work on this matter.


Resolved:-  (1)  That the report be noted.


(2)  That once extended hours for burials pilot was completed, the outcome be submitted to the Select Commission.

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