Update on Crematorium Development programme
Discussion Paper (no recommendations)
The Director of Environment, as Project Sponsor, introduced the paper as circulated with the agenda. The paper focused on concerns raised by members of the committee at the last meeting about risk and business continuity, in relation to what was, at £7.4m, the biggest project the Council had undertaken for some years.
The Director of Environment, along with the Bereavement Services Manager, gave the following responses to member questions:
- The Cabinet Working Group and Project Team regularly reviewed risk, in more detail than had been given in the update provided to this committee. There were currently 34 risks associated with this project and as it was not possible to eliminate risk, each was being actively managed with a series of actions and timescales. A recent risk workshop had included the contractor and had been useful in ensuring a comprehensive understanding. The need to replace the current cremator was the main driver for the project and also a major risk to it. Plant maintenance was almost a continual project in itself and as such the Project Team were working closely with the contractor, ATI, who had a great deal of experience.
- The current pre-construction phase took the project to May and every effort was being made to hit this target, so that a detailed planning application would be ready for submission and any risk of contractual delays could be minimised.
- The existing Crawford machines did, from time to time, do things that they shouldn’t but continued to be operational. The Crawford machines at Port Talbot crematorium led to the facility being burned down, which was not the only one to have failed, but ATI were confident that they could keep them running until they were replaced. Anything above £50k would be considered beyond economic repair and ATI could supply/build a single replacement cremator on site (non-abated) for around £250k.
- The Project Team were reluctant to give an estimated date for completion, but the current programme ran to the end of 2018 and the public message was that the works would be completed by Spring 2019. It was important to note that the service generated a surplus of £700-800k per annum, so the financial risk to the authority is significant.
- Officers were always honest and transparent with funeral directors. There had been occasions when coffins had needed to be held for 2-3 days and the crematorium always sought agreement beforehand. Were this period of time likely to be any longer for any reason, the funeral directors would be consulted. It would be possible for the service to be held at Cheltenham and the cremation to take place elsewhere, but this would be subject to agreement and the capacity of other areas at the time.
- The cost of spares was not included in the £50k figure for economic repair. However, a wider range of service components were now being kept in stock as a contingency to reduce down time.
The Bereavement Services Manager took the opportunity to give credit to staff at the crematorium, for keeping the machines running in spite of the various issues. Members echoed this sentiment.
There were no decisions arising from this item.