Monday, 22 December 2014

Burning Questions

It is interesting to note that Jersey’s Crematorium actually came into existence quite late. The Family Search website notes that:

“Jersey came late to the idea of cremation - the States did not pass a law permitting in until 1952, and the crematorium was finally opened at Westmount in 1960. However, neighbouring Guernsey opened a crematorium at Le Foulon in the early 1930s, and more than one local funeral director was willing to send bodies for cremation there, with the ashes either being scattered in Guernsey, returned to Jersey, or in a few cases scattered at sea.”

However, like much plant built in the 1960s and 1970s, it has been stretched to the limit, and variously adjusted to meet modern standards.


In 2003, a report to the Health and Social Services Committee stated that the “Crematorium is over 30 years old and does not comply with the UK Environmental Protection Act process guidance note PG5/2(91). There is a proposal to replace the existing cremators in the next 12 months with 2 new units.”

In detail, it stated that it did comply with the UK Environmental Protection Acts 1990 process guidance note PG5/2(91) and noted that pollutants produced from crematoria could include:- dioxins and furans, mercury, particulates, hydrogen chloride and carbon monoxide. Mercury, it is believed came mainly from fillings in teeth. A problem with odour was also noted, along with the fact that there were around 500 - 600 cremations a year.

It said there was a “proposal to replace the existing cremators in the next 12 months with two new units. The new cremators will meet the current UK process guidance notes standards”

In 2008, the Air Quality Review noted that:

“The 2003 report identified that the crematorium on the Island was not operating to standards that would be expected elsewhere in the UK in terms of its emissions. Since then new plant has been installed such that the crematorium now meets current standards.”

However, the “Jersey Air Quality Strategy and Action Plan, 2013” had this to say about “The Island Crematorium”:

“The crematorium is over 30 years old. Pollutants produced from crematoria may include dioxins and furans, mercury, particulates, hydrogen chloride and carbon monoxide. It is probable the Jersey’s crematorium is the main source of mercury on the island. Odour can also be a problem. Since the publication of the Air Quality Strategy 2003, new plant has been introduced that meets current UK process guidance notes emissions standards. There is currently no specific local legislation to regulate emissions from this facility, however, the crematoria are operated, as a requirement of Statutory Nuisances (Jersey) Law 1999 by the Health Protection Service, to the standards set out within the UK’s Process Guidance Note 5/2 (04), Secretary of State’s Guidance for Crematoria”

“Annual testing is required to ascertain the emissions of total particulates, Hydrogen Chloride Carbon Monoxide and organic compounds excluding particulate matter expressed as carbon”

So while some work has been done, there still seems to be much to be done, and it is notable that (1) there is no legislation to regulate emissions, so one wonders exactly how well they operate, or what would happen if they were not. (2) Odour is still listed as a problem, ten years after first identified, and nothing has changed.

While pollutants are mentioned, facts and figures which would give some idea of comparison with other jurisdictions are lacking, despite the annual testings. Will this be rectified in the near future, I wonder? Or will they require a request under Freedom of Information?

Charges for Cremation

An “under the radar” Ministerial decision means that cremation charges are set to rise in 2015:

“The Minister requests the Treasurer of the State to approve a proposed 7% increase in cremation charges, and a 7% increase in Books of Remembrance charges and memorial cards charges. The proposed increase would take effect from 1 January 2015.”

The reason is given as follows:

“The proposed increase in charges is due to the increase in fuel costs which are going up by 2.9%. There has also been a shortfall in achieving our income target by 4.25% by the end of October 2014.”

I was wondering about this, and trying to find out exactly what fuel is used in the cremation process in Jersey. Wikipedia notes that:

“Modern cremator fuels include fuel oil, natural gas, propane, and, in some areas like Hong Kong, coal gas. However, coal and coke were used until the early 1960s.”

Now some sources of fuel, such as oil, have fallen since the start of the year, while others, such as gas, have risen, so I assume it is largely cremation by gas. There is, however, no online documentation I can find at all about what source of fuel is used, and all that I have is anecdotal, about oil tanks by the building, which could just be used to heat it for those attending services.

The last huge rise was in 2010, when the BBC reported that:

“The cost of cremations in Jersey is to rise by 69% in 2010, following approval by the treasury minister. The move will see cremation costs rise from £317 to £535 at the Westmount Crematorium, St Helier. It follows a request by the health department, which said cremation charges had been below the actual cost of the service for several years.”

But that was not enough, and the BBC reported in December 2010 that:

“The cost of cremation in Jersey is to go up in 2011. There will be an £11 increase from 1 January, taking the overall fee for cremation from £535 to £546. The 2011 rise was in line with inflation, and was described as minimal compared to a £218 increase introduced at the start of 2010.”

Looking back:

In 2010, from 317 to 535, 69% increase of £218

In 2011 from 535 to 546, 2% increase of £11

In 2012, it went up from £546 to £600, 10% increase of £54

In 2013 from £600 to £615, 2% increase of £15

In 2014 from £615 to £676.50, 10% increase of £61.50

And now it is set to rise again by 7% to £723, increase of £47.

There is no great consistency, but it is worth noting that the increase has generally been greater than inflation, by a significant amount. The death grant is now £785.68, and so most of this will be gobbled up by cremation fees.

It is interesting to note that Bedford Borough Council, faced with above inflation cremation fees, did an “Equity Analysis” to see the impact on different segments of society, and concluded:

“Increase in fees and charges may have an adverse impact on low income users of the service. To mitigate any potential adverse impact of the increase in fees and charges, the Council are looking into the feasibility of instalment plan, online debit and credit card payment and to identify organisations that may be able to give financial help to those who require it.”

Shouldn’t Jersey be looking into this as well?

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