The Customer and Locality Services Portfolio Holder presented a report seeking Cabinet’s approval for a policy to ensure that South Lakeland’s cemeteries were safe places for visitors, officers and all others who may carry out their work within them, and to provide clarity for stakeholders of the responsibilities and approach of the Council in relation to memorial safety, assessment, monitoring and remedial actions that were required to be undertaken.
The report had been considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 27 August 2021 where the importance of publicity of the policy had been raised. It was also pointed out that the Committee had suggested a need to attach to memorials in poor condition information on who to contact regarding repair.
In addition to the safety of memorials, the importance of memorials as a secondary source of social history was raised. Attention was also drawn to the fact that it was the descendants of the deceased who were responsible for the maintenance of memorials.
The Specialist – Bereavement Services responded to a number of queries. He explained that headstones could be listed and that, whilst there were currently none in District Council cemeteries, there were some in closed churchyards for which the Council had a shared maintenance responsibility. He provided details with regard to the five year rolling programme for the survey of every headstone/memorial within cemeteries and closed churchyard, which was a legislative requirement. He advised Members that vandalism within cemeteries was a rare occurrence in South Lakeland and pointed out that owners were able to take out insurance in this regard. He also drew attention to the fact that the Council’s grounds maintenance contractors all had training on memorial safety and that, although not their responsibility, they routinely checked and reported back as necessary.
Members thanked officers for the report, as well as those Council colleagues who monitored the memorials.
RESOLVED – That the Management and Safety of Memorials Policy attached as Appendix 1 to the report be approved.
Reasons for Decision
The decision is relevant to the Council’s risk management process. Risk management is both the awareness of risks and the management processes that are directed towards effective reduction or mitigation of risks to enable the Council to identify key actions it must take to deliver its objectives.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected
The Council could decide not to adopt the policy. This would not be recommended as it would result in increased risk of accident and serious injury if the council fails to recognise its responsibility. As a burial authority, if the policy was not adopted, the Council would not be meeting its legal obligations contained within the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Occupiers Liability Act 1957, The Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977, and South Lakeland District Council’s own cemetery regulations.