The article below from the Perthshire Advertiser whilst seemingly local, throws up some very interesting questions around bereavement services, their cost and availability.
Perth Council have decided to retain ownership of their crematoria. A move welcomed by local funeral directors on the grounds that it will keep costs down for families.
However, they have chosen to close the facility on Saturday and Sunday to reduce overtime payments and thus reduce overall costs. This means families will not be able to inter ashes, scatter ashes or look at the book of remembrance. The Council is also raising the cost of a cremation from £500 to £600 to cover mercury abatement equipment.
The funeral directors are cross, they argue that these facilities provide a net profit to the council and as such the needs of those paying for the service should be met first before any surplus is handed back. In this particular case they see the council gaining additional monies at the expenses of grieving families; this is a fair enough point of view.
The council would see it that if they can achieve additional revenue from their assets with a small reduction in service then this will mean they will not need cut services elsewhere, I suppose in harsh terms this saving could help pay for a support worker for an elderly resident, they would see it that this is their asset and they should balance budgets holistically – again a fair point.
You can see both points of view, and in addition it is pleasing that the Council appear to have taken positive stance to keep bereavement services in-house when they could have probably plugged funding gaps through divestment.
What I don’t get, is that this seems a very one dimensional approach to solving the problem. There will be a genuine need for family to have access on at least one weekend day, due to travelling as some peoples jobs are inflexible. And according to the funeral director the families know and understand this may require additional expense.
What is to stop the council running a Tuesday to Saturday service, amend contracts to run those five days of the week and use and uplift from a Saturday cremation payments to offset the inconvenience to working patterns? This would satisfy the demand from customers and mean those inconvenienced were compensated. It is not as is the staff weren’t used to working at the weekend.
I know Local Authorities are in an invidious position addressing the needs of customer with that of the workforce, here they appear to favour the workforce, but I am not sure that is right, as with all things a balance needs to be struck and local authorities can on occasion for guilty of thinking in a very linear way when trying to solving real needs. Perhaps I am being a little harsh as I have scant facts, but sure isn’t beyond the wit of man, is it?