Call for cemetery cost-cutting measures after £14,000 losses revealed

Parish councillors in Seahouses have warned that drastic measures are needed to reduce running costs at the village cemetery.

Thursday, 9th January 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 12:48 am
North Sunderland cemetery.

Four-figure losses have been recorded in each of the last three financial years, it was revealed at a meeting of North Sunderland Parish Council.

An emergency meeting of its cemetery sub-committee has now been called to work out what savings can be made.

Acting clerk Sylvia Hillan revealed the cemetery lost £2,900 in 2017-18, £6,800 in 2018-19 and £4,700 from April to December 2019.

Coun Hillan said: “Having been treasurer of a multi-million national charity, there’s no way that would have gone on and for so long.

“We may have to bail it out from time to time but we must seriously look at making savings and that has to be a priority.

“We will soon, if we are bailing it out at this rate, have no reserves at all.”

Last year the council spent £4,027 on grass cutting at £135 a cut.

Coun Mick McCarthy suggested that £30,000, which the council had ring-fenced for an extension of the cemetery, could be used to resolve the situation.

He proposed that a part-time handyman be employed by the council, with £10,000 allocated in the budget, which could include cemetery duties.

“Many of the difficulties we have faced, both in terms of managing our parish and our cemetery, can be met by employing somebody ourselves,” he said.

“The budget for the cemetery for the past several years has required supplementing from council budgets. I believe we need a strategy to allow our cemetery to be increasing is income generation and reducing its expenses.”

He suggested that a contingency of £4,000 should be available to assist in balancing the budget this year, reduced to a maximum of £2,000 in 2021-22, £1,000 in 2022-23 and balancing in 2023-24.

“That will require active seeking of additional funding for the cemetery and/or significant reductions in costs,” he said.

However, fellow councillors expressed concern about the impact of employing a handyman on the council’s precept. At the moment, cemetery maintenance is contracted out.

Coun Maureen Bramley said: “We know there is not enough money coming into the cemetery to cover the costs. We can do something about the costs by regulating how often the grass is cut and tidied.”

Coun Hillan added: “Our precept is only £16,000 so if you employed someone for £10,000 it would only leave £6,000 to do everything else. We would have to put the precept up quite a lot and that means everyone’s council tax will go up so I can’t agree with that.”

Coun David Donaldson said: “We need an emergency meeting of the cemetery sub-committee, with the groundsman, to see what economies can be made there. Perhaps the grass could be cut lower and not so often?

“We are just a small village and I don’t think the council tax payers of Seahouses would be very happy if we were to double our parish rate.”

In September, the council agreed that grass-cutting should be carried out fortnightly rather than weekly.