Behind the scenes, however, the opening of the £4million private funeral home, crematorium and woodland burial ground in Dorset has turned up the heat on local council finances. With funeral prices rocketing, death can be fatal to many families’ finances, but it is a nice little urn-er for those whose job it is to despatch us on our way to the afterlife. Poole Borough Council, until now, has run the second busiest single-chapel crematorium in Britain and had been expecting to carry out 2,650 services this year, but now they have had to revise that figure drastically.

The opening of the new private 70-acre Harbour View facility, including the first new crematorium in Dorset for 30 years, means there are now four crematoria in the county, instead of three, and the number of council “customers” for Poole Crematorium has been slashed by more than 500.

That has meant a £400,000 loss of income for the council’s “bereavement services”, and staff overtime and the temporary secondment of managers from Bournemouth council will take the cut in its expected bereavement business to £480,000. Local funeral directors Tappers Funeral Care Service opened the Harbour View facility in ancient woodland near the village of Lytchett Minster last year with modern facilities, and stunning views of Poole Harbour and the Purbeck Hills.

Original Victorian buildings have been converted, and local materials used to create three ceremony halls and catering facilities for wakes. It boasts a one-stop-shop service for cremations and burials for about £2,800 – more than £1,000 less than the £4,000 average.

It can offer services at the weekends and even outdoors, weather permitting. Where the busy local authority crematorium often has a quick turnover, the new private facility also claims to offer much more relaxed ceremonies.

“In keeping with the relaxed environment, funerals at Harbour View are always arranged with plenty of time for bereaved families to meet and greet, to laugh and cry, to celebrate the life that has gone and to move on afterwards without the hint of being rushed,” promises the company literature.

“We have a minimum 90 minutes of separation between services as we believe bereaved families should not feel influenced by other unrelated funerals; the funeral that a family comes to celebrate should be the ONLY one they are aware of.”

Pointedly, it adds: “Most local funeral facilities provide 30 minutes of separation between services.”

As Steven Tapper, director of Harbour View, says: “This [crisis] has been a long time coming and Poole Crematorium has been over-trading for several years.

“It is the second busiest single chapel crematorium in the country. It expects to run 2,600 services a year when 1,800 would be its adequate capacity. As a result 30-minute windows and long waiting times have become the norm.

“That is not an adequate time and we’ve come in to offer a more modern, much more thorough service. Competition can only be in the public interest and it should not come as a surprise to the council.

“We are a crematorium and a funeral home in one and that £4,000 average is reduced quite drastically to below £3,000. The opening of the Harbour View Crematorium has eased pressure on existing crematoria in Dorset due to the unique offering which we provide.”

Poole crematorium, set on the edge of heathland with its own memorial gardens, is also tranquil but, since it was opened more than 30 years ago in 1985, is more dated and expected t need “significant investment” in the not-too-distant future.

Poole council officials fear the new “Crematoria Wars” could be a bitter fight. They admit they have been hit by competition from the private sector and have warned it will impact on the “economic sustainability” of their service.

IN ITS 2018/19 budget, it was estimated the council’s bereavement service would bring in about £2million. It is now forecast to be a total of £1.45million.

In a report, Julian Osgathorpe, the council’s strategic director, acknowledged that “a significant change has occurred in the local market”.

Osgathorpe wrote: “The budgeted income for cremations has been based on 2,650 cremations being carried out each year. A significant change has occurred in the local market, which has already, and will continue to, adversely impact on the level of business.

“Private crematorium services are now beginning to have an impact on the economic sustainability of the service.”

And raising prices is not an option for the council. Quite apart from increasing the gap between its package and Harbour View’s, the Government’s Competition and Markets Authority said recently that price rises – both for funeral director and council crematoria services – do not appear to be justified by cost increases or quality improvements.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here