Winner of the Best Cemetery and Crematorium Service Award at the APSE Annual Awards 2017, the team at Kettering Borough Council have reinvented their service. Team Manager, Cameron Galloway, spoke to APSE Direct about the team’s achievements.
Kettering’s Bereavement Services Team was awarded the APSE Best Service Team of the Year 2017 Cemetery and Crematorium Service Award. It was also a runner up in the Good Funeral Awards 2017.
We are extremely proud of this achievement as we are a small team consisting of the Team Manager, 2 Administrators, 3 multi-functional Cremation Technicians, 2 dedicated Gardeners for the crematorium / cemetery site plus additional support from our Environmental Care Service for our other cemeteries.
As well as the crematorium we have 8 cemeteries and 9 closed churchyards and carry out approximately 2000 cremations and 180 burials per annum.
One of the key drivers for the team is recognising the conflicting challenges arising from local authority finance cuts, local authority income needs, funeral poverty and external threats. In our area we have had three new crematoria open within a 30 mile radius and understand a fourth has been given planning permission. As a result we strive to provide a quality service and constantly seek improvements, no matter how small, to maintain that.
Our aim is to find ways of reducing costs or generating income from sources other than the bereaved wherever possible to try to keep fee increases to a minimum. The Authority was able to freeze prices for 2015 – 2016, 2016 - 17 and 2017-18.
So what do we do?
We believe that our team are fundamental to our success. We have moved to a model where our three Cremator Technicians can all function comfortably within the administration section, offering support during busy times or times of leave and sickness. The service manager also holds the Cremator Technician’s certificate. Our aim eventually would be to also have our 2 administration staff certificated as well to give a fully multi-functional team. Staff are encouraged to provide suggestions on how we might do things better.
Second to the team in importance has been the Authority’s investment in its facilities. Firstly we carried out works to extend our main cemetery. This provided us with 25 – 30 years more burial space. It also gave us the space to construct mausolea, provide a dedicated children’s section and a large memorial section.
Five years ago the old crematory was replaced to allow for the installation of 2 new ATI cremators and abatement (replacing 3 old machines). At the same time one ceremony room was demolished and replaced with a larger more suitable facility.
The new installations allowed the crematorium to be heated by heat recovery from the cremation / abatement process. As a result, we use 40% less gas than before the improvements. We have a fixed maintenance price for the cremators based on a fee per cremation + RPI increase in a 15 year agreement, allowing us to manage costs more effectively.
In our cemeteries we previously offered Exclusive Rights of Burial (ERB) for 40 / 60 / 80 years. Everyone had been opting for the 40 year option leaving us with lower levels of income than we should have been achieving and increased administration costs from attempting to pursue leases at the end of their term. We now only offer a 99 year ERB at what was the 80 year price. This change has had no impact on numbers of burials, has reduced administration and increased income to more relevant levels for the cost of cemetery maintenance. Burial income now covers the cost of cemetery maintenance.
We have taken the decision to move customers away at the end of leases. Leaseholders have been difficult to track down so we have erected signs in the memorial garden and remove and store the plaques for one year at the end of the lease. It is hoped that a family visiting for an anniversary during that year will contact us to discuss what to do with their memorial. This covers the Authority’s cost for memorial but, more importantly, allows us to improve this section. We are slowly clearing the garden to allow new, varied, better quality memorial provision with a wider range of prices.