The Council have pleasure in presenting their report and financial statements for the year ended 31st March 1998.
Company law requires us as council members to prepare financial statements for each financial year which give a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the Society and of the net income or expense of the Society for that period. In preparing those financial statements we are required to:
We are responsible for keeping proper accounting records which disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the Society and enable us to ensure that the financial statements comply with the Companies Act 1985. We are also responsible for safeguarding the assets of the Society and hence for taking reasonable steps for the prevention and detection of fraud and other irregularities.
The Society was founded in 1874 by the late Sir Henry Thompson, Bart., to promote and establish the practice of cremation for the disposal of the bodies of dead persons and to join with local authorities and other bodies, or persons, for this purpose.
The financial statements show that the surplus for the financial year was £575,767 compared with £273,946 the previous year. Realised investment gains recognised in the year amounted to £20,859 (1997: £93,715). Unrealised investment gains recognised in the year totalled £584,616 (1997: £208,265). Despite the overall surplus achieved, the Society has a net expenditure deficit before investment gains of £29,708 (1997: £28,034).
Office, administration and promotional expenses remained under control. The changes instigated to the Society's quarterly journal Pharos International have met with unqualified approval throughout the funeral industry. More than ever this publication now provides the Society with an invaluable vehicle for making its views known on important topical issues. Now that the new format has been established Pharos will be used to define clearly the Society's aims and objectives for the future and it is expected to be an invaluable aid in promoting the Society's ideals.
The demand for the Society's Directory of Crematoria continues at a high level and this publication is still regarded as the definitive of its kind. Over the years it has proved to be an extremely practical publication among those within the funeral profession. Ways of making its content more widely available to the public are now being investigated.
Establishment costs are still the predominant contributory factory to the net expenditure deficit. Unfortunately the Society was unable to conclude the purchase of the freehold property referred to in last years report due to a planning complication. Despite this set-back your Council continues to review all property options, including a freehold purchase, with a view to reducing the burden of establishment costs experienced by the Society.
The Society continues to be approached for guidance and advice by those interested in establishing cremation facilities. Most enquiries emanate from the private sector who have been responsible for 9 out of the last 10 crematoria built in Great Britain. The Society continues to promote the practical and environmental benefits of cremation in co-operation with kindred national and international organisations.
The best way to promote cremation in a practical way is through the establishment of cremation facilities providing a high level of service as this inevitably encourages the public to choose the cremation option. The Council is pleased to report that the Society's subsidiary The London Cremation Company plc is building a Community Crematorium at Banbury North Oxfordshire which is expected to open by the end of 1998. Although small, the facility will provide the highest level of service tailored to individual needs.
Regrettably there has been extensive and almost entirely negative media coverage of the cremation movement which has portrayed the whole of it in a less than favourable light. This is unjustified as the subject of the coverage related almost entirely to the unacceptable practices being carried out by a section of the private sector. The vast majority of those involved in the cremation movement both public and private provide a sensitive and caring service but the negative media coverage has tended to overshadow this fact.
Whilst there are a number of bodies within the funeral directing industry to whom unresolved complaints can be referred the only truly recognised independent body that exists is the Funeral Ombudsman Scheme which now covers about 70% of all funerals carried out in Great Britain.
Within the private sector of the cremation movement there is no independent body to which unresolved complaints can be referred. In view of this the Society took the initiative and proposed to the Funeral Ombudsman Scheme that it consider widening its remit to cover cremation authorities. This has now happened and in June 1998 the Society's subsidiary became the first operating cremation authority to join the scheme. Other private cremation companies have also joined and the Society will be encouraging others in the private sector to follow suit. Membership of the scheme demonstrates to the public the transparency of the service that is offered and a willingness to be held accountable if and when mistakes happen.
Whilst complainants in the public sector have recourse to the Local Authority Ombudsman Scheme the public are unaware of this fact with little or no reference being made to it by municipal cremation authorities. The emergence of the Funeral Ombudsman Scheme in the private sector has prompted some municipal sections of the cremation movement to highlight the existence of their Ombudsman Scheme but a great deal more needs to be done in this respect.
As a result of the media coverage the Director General of Fair Trading announced in May 1998 that a "Funeral Industry Inquiry" would be launched. The Society will be contributing to the Inquiry in any way that it can. As a result of the Inquiry into the funeral industry Mr. David Chidgey, Liberal Democrat Trade and Industry spokesman, launched a consultation questionnaire the results of which formed tile basis of the report entitled The U.K. Funeral Industry - Case for Reform. Some twentyfive organisations responded and the Society, the sole representative body from the cremation movement, provided comments and observations on a number of issues of relevance.
The last time the Society's Memorandum & Articles of Association were amended was in 1976 and since that time there have been numerous legislative changes that have affected the Society, in particular the Charities Act 1993. In the circumstances it is now appropriate for the Society to revise its existing Memorandum & Articles and in this connection it will be liaising with the Charity Commission. Any proposed amendments will ultimately be subject to the approval of members of the Society at a meeting specially convened for that purpose. A revision to the Memorandum & Articles will also deal with the membership structure of the Society but for the present membership is still available and all applications will be considered. On acceptance members will continue to be provided with various concessions relating to the Society's activities.
In March 1998 the Society's historical archives were finally deposited with the Special Collections Section of the Durham University Library. A start on the first stage of sorting and listing the various items is well under way and a start has also been made on building up a bibliography of sources for the Encyclopedia of Cremation. From the amount and quality of material involved it is clear that the archive, in its final form. will prove invaluable to researchers. It is intended that certain elements of the archive will be accessible via the Internet.
As the site of the Secretariate, the Society continues to play an important role in the activities of the International Cremation Federation and it had the pleasure of hosting the Federations' new President, Mr. Ulf Lagerstrom from Sweden, at its 1997 Conference. Since her retirement, the former President of the Federation, Mrs. Nicoline van den Broek, has been awarded the honour of the Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau by Her Majesty the Queen of The Netherlands. In the citation reference was made to her involvement with the Federation.
The Federation has recently formed a technical sub-committee consisting of representatives from six different countries in order to concentrate specifically on environmental matters. The Federation was also represented at a meeting of the Working Group on Minorities organised by the U.N. office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.
In May 1999 the I.C.F. Congress and General Council Meeting will be combined with 125th anniversary of The Royal Dutch Cremation Society at a Congress entitled "Cremation and the Environment" to be held in the Hague. During the Congress elections will take place for the new Executive Committee.
The Society will be initiating discussions with other sectors of the funeral industry, to examine the existing Code of Cremation Practice and other codes of practice, so that we can assess the potential for integrating these with existing recognised standards, such as those laid down, for example, by the National Consumer Council.
It is felt that the Code of Cremation Practice should have a considerably wider remit than exclusively the practical process of cremation. It should include guidelines on such subjects as ethics and accountability, standards of service and caring for the bereaved. We look forward to working in close co-operation with the two primary trade organisations; the Federation of British Cremation Authorities and the Institute of Burial and Cremation Administration and also with our colleagues in the National Association of Funeral Directors and the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors.
We intend to take a much more active role in our relationships with government departments such as Environment, Health and the Home Office. It is the Society's hope that it can persuade these departments to consult more fully with all the organisations concerned, particularly the Society, before any further regulations affecting cremation are introduced.
Work will commence on the establishment of the Society's own internet website so that its activities and the services it provides may be more widely publicised. The establishment of the website will enable anyone anywhere to gain access to the Society and just as the Society led the cremation movement into this century so it will lead into the next.
Finally, the Council takes this opportunity of expressing its appreciation of the work undertaken by the Society's small but dedicated staff.
In the opinion of the Directors of the subsidiary company, the market value of its freehold land and buildings is considerably in excess of the net book value of £460,548. In the absence of a professional valuation of all the properties the Council are unable to quantify that excess.
Appointed to the Council in February 1997 Reverend Dr. Peter Jupp was unanimously elected by members to serve on the Society's Council at the Annual General Meeting held on the 9th October 1997. Offices and memberships which he has held include International Society for the Sociology of Religion and Director of the National Funerals College. Presently he is Honorary Research Fellow, Centre for the Study of Religion and Society, University of Kent; Member of the Churches Group of Funerals at Cemeteries and Crematoria and a member of the Editorial Board of Mortality. He continues to be a keen researcher, writer, lecturer and organiser of conferences and courses dealing with all aspects of death, dying and disposal.
The Council is pleased to record the appointment of Stephen R.G. White as a Member in December 1997 and proposes his formal election at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting. He is a freelance lecturer, tutor and writer. His past positions include Senior Lecturer, Cardiff Law School; Visiting Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand; Research Fellow, Department of Law, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University of Canberra. He is a frequent contributor to professional publications and has a keen interest in criminal and medical law and cremation related matters.
The Council is also pleased to record the appointment of Professor Geoffrey Woodroffe as a Member in April 1998 and proposes his formal election at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting. He is currently Director of the Centre for Consumer and Commercial Law Research at Brunel University, Uxbridge. He has a keen interest in consumer law and acts as a consultant for the EC Commission Consumer Policy Service, the Office of Fair Trading, and the Consumers' Association. A graduate of St. John's College Cambridge, he qualified as a solicitor and practised as a commercial lawyer in the city before entering academic life. He is a member of the National Consumer Council and the Law Society's Consumer Law Sub-Committee, and the author of numerous books on commercial and consumer law. He has been the Funeral Ombudsman since the formation of the Scheme in April 1994.
The Council believes that these appointments strengthen the Society and will enable it to speak with knowledge and authority from a position of independence. Further appointments are expected in the near future.
The Directors of the Society (who are honorary and known as Members of the Council) who served during the financial year, were as follows:
The Right Hon. The Earl Grey
R.G. Roberts (Chairman and Honorary Treasurer)
Rev. Dr. P. Jupp
E.N. Spencer (retired 9th October 1997)
H. Thomas C.B.E.
A.E. Watson (deceased 26th November 1997)
The Honourable Mrs. A. Widdows (resigned 3rd September 1997)
S.R.G. White (appointed 11th December 1997)
The undermentioned members of the Council were also Directors of the Society's subsidiary, The London Cremation Company plc., from which they received total emoluments of £48,850 during the year ended 31st March 1998:
The Right Hon. The Earl Grey
H. Thomas C.B.E.
The interest of members of the Council, including family interests, in the shares of the subsidiary at the beginning and end of the year, were as follows:
|Ordinary Shares||Preference Shares|
|H. Thomas C.B.E.||100||100||1,000||1,000|
|A.E. Watson (deceased 26th November 1997)||300|
|The Honourable Mrs. A. Widdows||1,700||650|
|Non-Beneficial Trustee Interests:|
|The Right Honourable The Earl Grey||20,000||20,000|
|H. Thomas C.B.E.||8,220|
The Right Honourable The Earl Grey is a Trustee of the Golders Green Foundation.
Mr. R. G. Roberts and Mr. H. Thomas are Trustees of the subsidiary's Staff Pension Fund.
The Society is a Company limited by guarantee not having a share capital, and is registered under the Charities Act 1960.
A resolution will be submitted to the forthcoming Annual General Meeting that Messrs. Larkings, Chartered Accountants, be re-appointed Auditors of The Society.
BY ORDER OF THE COUNCIL
Date: 3rd September 1998
R.N. Arber, Secretary