£170,000 surge in bereavement services income during lockdown in Stafford

Stafford Borough Council saw a £170,000 surge in income from cremations and other bereavement services during the lockdown period, it has been revealed.

The entrance to Stafford Crematorium. Photo: Google StreetView.
The entrance to Stafford Crematorium. Photo: Google StreetView.

The council received almost 40 per cent more income in bereavement services between April and June than it originally budgeted for at the start of the 2020/21 financial year, according to a performance report presented to councillors.

This was in contrast to a drop in income from other services such as car parking charges during the lockdown.

Councillor Louise Nixon highlighted the additional cremations income at a Community Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee meeting on September 8.

She said: “That’s a massive additional income, isn’t it? Do we need to be concerned?

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“Because there is such a significant increase, how are the people working at the crematorium being emotionally supported? Are they emotionally prepared and coping?”

Councillor Jonathan Price, cabinet member for environment, said the increase had coincided with the coronavirus crisis.

“With the additional deaths we had an additional income for burials”, he added.

“It’s not anything we wish to thank anybody for. We may have additional income but the equipment has been working much harder than it would – this means it will require work far sooner than it would have done.

Caring

“I would like to see the crematorium being barely used but it is a sad fact of life what it is there for. The bereavement services team have stepped up and done a good job. They have been very respectful and caring towards our residents.”

Council chief executive Tim Clegg told the meeting: “We work with the crematorium staff in making sure they and all the other staff have the support they need.”

Councillor Jeremy Pert, cabinet member for community and health, said that while bereavement services income was up, the council still faced funding challenges due to a drop in other revenue and increased costs during the pandemic.

“This borough council is going to spend £1.4m in addition to what it has got in for support (during) the Covid pandemic”, he added.

“It’s a huge amount of money and we need to look at this in the whole round – as a council we cannot afford to go bust.”

Since the start of the pandemic 120 people from Stafford Borough have had Covid-19 listed on their death certificate.

A temporary mortuary was set up at Staffordshire County Showground in preparation for a rise in deaths during the pandemic.

Staffordshire County Council approved a £550,000 spend on facilities for “management of excess deaths in Staffordshire in response to the Covid-19 outbreak” in early April, before giving the green light for a further £760,000 to be spent on building an additional unit at the Weston Road site, which is near the Tixall Road crematorium.

But the second unit “for excess death storage” was not built because the first unit was not put into operation.

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