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Hadleigh Cemetery Extension: Update March 2020

20 March 2020

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Background

A cemetery is provided partly as a public service, but in the climate of public spending cuts it is increasingly necessary to ensure that projects are viable. This update acknowledges the sensitivity around cemeteries and burials, but seeks to address only the financial aspects of the project.

During the 2011-2015 term of office, Hadleigh Town Council committed to an extension to the town’s cemetery, and the 2015-2019 administration instructed the contractors to start the work. This project was controversial and some public concern was raised about the need for the extension, seeking clarity over the costs of the project, and issues around a business case to ensure that the income from the cemetery can cover the costs incurred.

On taking office in May 2019, the newly elected Councillors of Hadleigh Town Council committed to reviewing the project to ensure that:

  • the public can be advised of the full facts about the project,
  • lessons could be learned for developing future major projects, and
  • an action plan could be developed to ensure that the outlay on the project could be recouped through cemetery income as far as is possible.

As a result, a working group met on the 9th of August 2019 and the meeting notes can be seen here http://hadleigh.suffolk.cloud/assets/Meetings/2019-20/Cemetery-Extension-Working-Group/2019-08-09-Cemetery-Working-Group-Notes-2.pdf

What we know

The current cost of the project to date is £738,077 made up as follows:

Description

Cost

Architect Fees

£2,904.64

Purchase of Land (including solicitor fees)

£38,300.16

Legal Advice

£285.00

Ecological Survey

£840.00

Geoenvironmental Assessment/Survey

£1,284.00

Topgraphic Survey

£1,620.00

Planning Fees

£387.50

Project Management/Contract Management & Health & Safety Advisor

£33,430.00

Licence Fee

£6,750.00

Land Agent Fee

£1,500.00

Tree Works

£1,465.00

Accepted Tender Cost for physical works

£472,597.96

Unexpected additional cost for sleeper wall extension

£4,522.60

Interest repayments on loan
(£500,000 Public Works Loan taken out over 25 years at 2.79%)

£172,190.50*

TOTAL

£738,077.36

Landscaping

TBC

Future maintenance and care

TBC

Costs are taken from paid invoices, except interest repayments which are taken from the contract.

We can confirm that the Town Council’s public liability insurance covers the cemetery extension.

Next Steps

Much of the work in developing the cemetery extension is complete, so there is little value in stopping the project. However, we want to ensure that the project does not have a negative impact on Town Council finances, as there could be one of two potential outcomes:

  • having inherited this issue, the current Councillors might be forced to consider increasing the council tax precept to cover the costs of past decisions, or
  • the Town Council would have to divert existing funds from other work and reduce its ability to carry out some necessary actions or projects that benefit the town.

Clearly, it is the ambition of the Town Council to seek to make the cemetery extension viable in order to avoid those scenarios wherever possible.

Action

  1. We will ensure that the physical works to date are reviewed against the specification of works to make sure that they have been done correctly, and that any concerns of the public relating to the works are addressed.
  2. We will continue to publicise relevant information about the project where we are legally able to do so.
  3. We will engage independent experts to carry out a study of both the existing cemetery and the extension to:
    1. find more information about how the project’s financial projections were developed and whether they are realistic,
    2. establish the number of existing plots remaining and the number of new plots that will be available in the extension,
    3. understand what works and costs remain to be done before the extension can open – we believe for example that there will be some additional landscaping costs,
    4. review the pricing structure for the cemetery to ensure that the prices are in line with the market rate, and
    5. Establish the viability of the proposed ‘green burials’ part of the extension and other specialist services.
    This will allow us to understand the financial circumstances overall, and plan appropriately for the project to be completed.
  4. The cemetery working group will continue to meet and advise the Town Council until the above matters are addressed.

In the mean-time, the Cemetery continues to function, and provides a high quality, peaceful, final resting place.