‘We are not charging enough for cremation’

12-128          14/2/12         Cherry trees are ill at Woodwells Cemetery, Hemel Hempstead
12-128 14/2/12 Cherry trees are ill at Woodwells Cemetery, Hemel Hempstead

A CREMATORIUM could be built in Hemel Hempstead alongside a new cemetery.

More space for burials is needed because Woodwells is filling up and council chiefs have learned that profits of around half a million pounds a year can be gleaned from running a crematorium.

Currently Dacorum Borough Council has a share in West Herts Crematorium, which breaks even, but cabinet finance chief Nick Tiley believes it should be making a profit.

“We are aware of the fact we don’t get a commercial return on our share of the crematorium at Garston,” he said.

“In my opinion we’re not charging enough money.

“We are charging rates that undercut commercial crematoriums, which means we get lots of business but we make no money out of it.

“You can make half a million a year out of it. If that’s true we’re short-changing our taxpayers.”

Woodwells Cemetery is expected to be full in around four years’ time but the high value land surrounding it is earmarked for industry.

The problem was highlighted a year ago and work has been taking place to investigate various options.

“We were wondering whether we could take some of the land near the existing Woodwells Cemetery,” Mr Tiley said. “We decided that’s very valuable land and we don’t want to use that land that’s worth that price as an extra area of cemetery.”

He said land next to Breakspear Park towards the M1 was being considered for parkland, a cemetery and potentially a crematorium, with proposals expected to be presented to the cabinet in the summer.

“It would be a cemetery with space for development if we decided a crematorium was a viable project in the future,” Mr Tiley said.

“The first thing we would like to do is get a return out of Garston. If we can get that what is the point of building another one? If we can’t do that, if we can’t convince our partners, we would like to keep our options open.

“In the current financial environment we are all in, if we can make a commercial return on a service we are offering, I would be surprised if they don’t want to take advantage of that.”

Mr Tiley said so far there was no agreement among the partners in the crematorium to raise prices.

Currently Garston charges between £484 and £731 for the cremation of someone over the age of 12, depending on the time and day of the week.

> What do you think? Should prices be raised? Email your views to thegazette@jpress.co.uk