Report of the Director of Open Spaces.
The Committee received a report of the Director of Open Spaces on the Period 1 (April – July 2020) Cemetery & Crematorium Business Plan Performance update.
A Member observed that the City of London continued to maintain an open cemetery (following guidance from the City’s Legal team) when other cemeteries and crematorium grounds were closed. The City’s large spacious chapels enabled the City to allow 20 people to attend a funeral safely when many crematoria were limiting numbers to 5 or 10 people. The Member in question commended the Departments work around this, during a very difficult time.
The Deputy Chairman of the Committee mentioned that the team had been providing a number of services in addition to what is required of them. He mentioned that the Lord Mayor was very impressed with the services during his visit to thank the staff in person.
A Member asked for a comment around the budgetary position of the Cemetery and Crematorium. The Department’s Business Manager responded that the Department has had an increase of income, which resulted in the increase of expenditure too, such as bringing in extra staff to cover those who are unwell or shielding. It is expected to maintain the same level of income unless there is a second spike. The Department is anticipating that it may go over their budget, in the event of a second wave of COVID-19.
The Superintendent & Registrar commented that it is hard to clarify where the Department’s financial position may be towards the end of the year as it had to reduce the number of cremations due to the number of cremators being available, as a result of the replacement project. At present the Department has only one working cremator and this maybe the case until the first week of November 2020.
The Chairman informed the Committee that he had raised with the HR Director the matter of formal recognitions for staff who have been working exceptionally hard during this difficult time. There are plans in place for formal recognition on the pandemic related work, as well as the Freedom of the City of London, where possible.
The Chairman asked a question following on from the Lord Mayor’s visit, that if the City of London was able to live stream services for families who cannot join the funerals physically but can join the services online. The Superintendent & Registrar responded that at present the cemeteries are not in good positions with the cellular reception. This has been raised with IT services in the City of London and there has been an ongoing dialogue which resulted in a site visit for inspections.
The Superintendent & Registrar informed the Committee that once, the Department is in a position to provide quality reception, we may be able to provide such services but at present the service is not up to the level of expectation that the City of London would expect. The Chairman offered his political support on this and agreed to write to the Director of IT and the Chairman of the Digital Services Sub Committee. This was welcomed by the Superintendent & Registrar.
This was followed by a Member who stated that the Members of this Committee will be happy to support the notion of having the services live streamed, as we will be seeing further restriction and he hopes that the budget will be made available so that the City of London’s digital services can be up to speed to allow live feed for bereaved families.
The Director of the Built Environment also agreed to take up the IT issues with the Chief Officers and offer her support where possible.
RESOLVED – that Members noted the performance of the Cemetery and Crematorium during this April to July 2020 reporting period.