The Council have pleasure in presenting their report and financial statements for the year ended 31st March 2000.
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 on the General Fund for the financial year was £102,230 compared with £294,475 the previous year. Realised investment gains recognised in the year amounted to £30,876 (1999: losses £1,108). Unrealised investment gains recognised in the year totalled £101,492 (1999: £328,181). The Society's net outgoing resources on General Fund before investment gains was £30,138 (1999: £32,598).
Following the abolition of the payment of advance corporation tax by companies paying dividends in the 1997 Budget, the Society, in common with other charities, is unable to reclaim the associated tax credits on dividends receivable after 5th April 1999 from the Inland Revenue. However, charities are, under transitional rules, receiving compensation for the loss of these tax credits for a five year period reducing on a sliding scale. After 5th April 2004 the Society's total U.K. dividend income could therefore have been reduced by 20% of the 1998/99 level subject to changes in the market and yields. The Society's brokers will take all reasonable steps to mitigate the adverse effects of this change in tax legislation.
Sorting, arranging and numbering of printed material of the Society's archive is virtually complete and full on-line cataloguing of books, periodicals and pamphlets has been started. The records are now going into the Durham University Library's on-line catalogue which can be accessed on the web at www.dur.ac.uk/library.
Enough of the archive is now fully arranged and numbered for its availability at Durham to be advertised to the wider scholarly world so there is now an overall description on the web. This can be found on-line at Durham's Archives and Special Collections website at http://tinyurl.com/CremationSocietyArchives.
The Society's press cuttings are bringing to light a rich vein of fascinating material, especially for the early period of the cremation movement, although conservation problems of desiccated paper are predictably great.
The Society's website at www.cremation.org.uk continues to be updated and expanded. It is presently the only website operated by any national British cremation organisation and has received over 2,000 visits since it was fully constructed.
The Society's website proved particularly useful in February 2000 when the Society circulated all crematoria in Great Britain drawing attention to the newly introduced Cremation (Amendment) Regulations 2000. It was able to refer cremation authorities to its website where full details of the text could be obtained.
The Society has secured permission under a licence agreement with the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office to reproduce certain Crown Copyright material relating to the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and relevant to cremation authorities, including material on the siting and planning of crematoria.
In due course it is the intention to update the website further and increase its user friendliness.
Demand for the Directory of Crematoria continues to increase. The information contained in the publication has been widened to include details of disabled facilities and more accurate location information. As a result of increased demand the normal print run will be increased for the 2000 edition.
Since the early 1980s the National Environmental Technical Centre (NETC) has been compiling the UK's National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. Crematoria are now being included in the Inventory but appropriate data is not currently available to the NETC. In the circumstances the Society has reached agreement with the NETC, that under licence and for internal use only, it can use the directory content in certain publications.
Also under licence, the Society has allowed Chadwyck-Healey Limited to include the content of the Directory on their Know-UK website. Chadwyck-Healey are a highly reputable academic publishing company specialising in providing information to libraries and all types of research centres throughout the world. Under this licence arrangement the Society will be entitled to a nominal amount of royalties.
To mark the Society's 125th Anniversary a commemorative issue of Pharos International was published and circulated free of charge throughout the cremation movement in some 30 countries throughout the world. Whilst the ultimate content and quality of the publication is of the highest standard some production difficulties have been experienced, exacerbated for a time through staff shortages. Matters are being resolved and the publication time tables are now being met. The position will improve further once the Society's new computer system has been installed and is fully operational.
During the year under review the Society continued to provide support and backing for the Funeral Ombudsman Scheme's (FOS) call for a single code of practice for funerals. In November 1999 at a one day conference entitled Redress and the Funeral Profession arranged by the FOS, the Minister for Consumer and Corporate affairs, Dr Kim Howells MP, backed the FOS in its efforts to move the funeral industry towards a single code of practice. John Bridgeman, Director General of the Office of Fair Trading, remarked that although the level of complaint in the funeral industry was extremely small there were many people who were far from satisfied but who did not complain. The conference involved all the major trade associations of the funeral industry, along with representatives of consumer and bereavement organisations and the ecumenical Churches' Group on Funeral Services. The Society was well represented and actively participated in discussions during the conference.
The Director General of Fair Trading is concerned that people could be getting a poor deal when arranging a funeral - at a time when they are most vulnerable. With this is mind the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is seeking the views of interested parties such as the Society, who may be able to provide an insight into people's experiences. This will help them to establish the scale and nature of the problems facing consumers at such a stressful point in their lives. The OFT is particularly keen to welcome any recommendations as to how the process can be improved. The Society has been approached as a prominent consultee and will be submitting a comprehensive response.
In response to a consultation document ¨Registration: Modernising a Vital Service¨ issued by the Office for National Statistics seeking to review the role of the Civil Death Registration Service, Mr Stephen White, a member of the Society's Council, submitted a comprehensive response which had the full support of the Society. The results of the consultation exercise are awaited although it is to be expected that these will be subject to delay in the light of the Dr Harold Shipman case.
On 1st February 2000 in the House of Commons Mr Alan Milburn, Secretary of State for Health, announced an independent inquiry into the issues raised by the case of Dr Harold Shipman. As the pioneer of cremation in this country the Society has a particular interest in this matter. It was responsible for the original Cremation Act (which is still in force), and the cremation certification process introduced under the Act was modelled on that which the Society had always insisted on at its own crematorium at Woking.
On 10th March it was announced that Lord Laming would be heading the independent Inquiry and the Society wrote to the Home Secretary requesting that it be on the list of consultees.
As a result of the Dr Harold Shipman case the Home Office were undertaking a review of the death certification procedures. In response to an approach from the Secretary of the Death Certification Review the Society submitted a response to the Home Office's background paper and questionnaire on this matter.
For some time the Society has been providing guidance and advice on the establishment and operation of cremation facilities to the owners of Mount Jerome Cemetery, situated on the south side of Dublin. This culminated in the opening, in February 2000, of a cremation facility consisting of a tasteful conversion of Mount Jerome Cemetery chapel. This brings the number of crematoria in the Republic of Ireland to two. A further crematorium is under construction at Newlands Cross, Dublin, and the practice of cremation is becoming established and looks set for wider adoption generally in the Republic.
The Society continues to provide the secretariat for the International Cremation Federation. The activities of the Federation's sub-committees, in particular the Technical Sub-Committee, continue to increase with many important environmental matters being addressed.
In April and for the first time in the Federation's history, the Executive Committee held a meeting in Asia when it visited Japan. During the visit meetings were held with the Mayors of Sakai and Minoh Cities, and the Director General of Public Health Bureau, Yokohama City Government.
The visit provided the opportunity to learn of the many technical and environmental developments that are taking place in the Japanese cremation movement which may prove beneficial to cremation movements elsewhere in the world.
During 2000 the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) commenced a review of the Secretary of State's Guidance - Crematoria, which regulate the operation of crematoria. The cremation movement believes that the assumptions currently being made by the DETR are based on inadequate information and data. Initial reports indicate that the introduction of extremely onerous new regulations are being considered, that if implemented are likely to have serious repercussions for the cremation movement forcing it towards a regional service. This would result in the closure of a number of crematoria as well as creating serious difficulties for bereaved families and ultimately undermining the dignity and respect in which the service is carried out.
As a member of the Crematoria Process Guidance Note Revision Working Party the Society is joining with other principal members of the cremation movement in order to make representations against the DETR's proposals should this be necessary. At all times the Society will be emphasising the importance that the cremation industry places on the social and environmental aspects of the service it provides.
In order to facilitate the proposed updating of the Society's existing Revised Memorandum and Articles of Association the Society's existing membership structures and levels needed to be rationalised. As a result it has been necessary to review the Cremation Society's internal underwriting arrangements with the Pharos Assurance Friendly Society (formerly known as the Cremation Assurance Friendly Society). These arrangements relate to certain types of Cremation Society joint life membership certificates issued between approximately 1950-1957 and 1957-1978. Under an internal arrangement the Society's liability to meet the benefit payable under these memberships was underwritten by the Pharos Assurance Friendly Society.
Due to changes in Friendly Society legislation, a direct result of which has been a dramatic escalation in the level of professional fees charged to Pharos, it has been necessary for it to consider its future and that of its members, many of whom are Cremation Society joint life membership certificate holders. To protect its members' benefits and provide long term security it decided, with assistance from the Association of Friendly Societies and the Friendly Societies Commission, to effect a transfer of engagements to the Nottingham Friendly Society. This is presently in the process of being carried out, involves several thousand members and is a rather complex and time-consuming process. However it is on schedule to be completed by 18th December 2000.
On completion of the transfer those members affected will have financial security and the Cremation Society will have secured underwriting guarantees in order that it can meet its financial obligations to meet the claim under a member's certificate when they die. It is also possible that reserves set aside specifically for these types of memberships will no longer be necessary. This will be of benefit to the Society.
One of the main advantages of resolving the membership situation is that it enables your Council to progress with the review and update of its Revised Memorandum and Articles of Association and the introduction of new membership schemes which has long been its aim. As previously advised, this will be dealt with at an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Society which will take place as soon as appropriate and in any event no later than the 2001 Annual General Meeting.
As mentioned in last year's report, leasing office accommodation has proved to be a strain on the Society's finances. It has always been the intention of the Council to resolve this situation through the purchase of a suitable freehold property. This has, however, proved to be extremely difficult not least due to the onerous financial penalties that would be incurred by the Society in cancelling its existing lease.
The Society is therefore very pleased to report that on 20th December 1999 it secured the freehold of Brecon House where it had previously leased accommodation on the second floor. Brecon House was built in 1982 and consists of a modern 10,000 square foot purpose built four storey office block in Maidstone, Kent. Situated within the traditional office area of the town centre there is easy access from the M25, M20 and M2 motorways. It is also conveniently situated for its international activities as the secretariat of the International Cremation Federation, with fast access to Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports together with the Ashford International rail terminal providing Eurostar Express links to the continent.
This acquisition represents a major investment purchase for the Society and has been with funds raised through the realisation of a portion of the Society's investment portfolio. The existing tenants of the building are of good quality and a number are major insurance companies whose leases do not expire until at least 2008. The loan will be serviced and re-paid from rental income and at present rates it is calculated that this will be completed by 2008/9. Since the acquisition of Brecon House the Society has ceased to pay rent.
This purchase provides the Society with permanent office accommodation and long-term financial security. It is unique in the cremation movement in that it is the only fully independently operated office with staff available from 9am to 5pm five days a week to deal with any enquiries from the public and existing or prospective cremation authorities.
The Society will continue to consolidate its existing relationships with allied organisations as well as participating in discussions on cremation related topics on which it can speak with authority. It will cooperate with kindred organisations when the cause of cremation is being promoted. The Society will at all times, through its interests in cremation companies, promote the practice of cremation to the highest standard.
It will consolidate those relationships already established with government departments such as the Home Office, Office for National Statistics, Department of Trade and Industry, Office of Fair Trading, and Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. It will cultivate relationships with other government departments as appropriate.
The Society will continue to play an active role in international affairs through its involvement in the International Cremation Federation.
Having secured the freehold of Brecon House the Society will be upgrading its own office facilities and in this connection will be replacing and improving its existing computerised administration system. This should enable the Society to utilise, to the fullest extent, the vast amount of information it possesses as well as being able to provide an improved and more efficient service to all those who call upon the Society for data and assistance. It will enhance further its reputation as one of the leading national and international cremation organisations.
Following the transfer of engagements from the Pharos Assurance Friendly Society to the Nottingham Friendly Society it will be able to rationalise its existing membership structure and conclude changes to the existing revised Memorandum and Articles of Association to include provision for new types of membership.
Finally, the Council takes this opportunity of expressing its appreciation of the often heavy workload 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 £1,402,688. In the absence of a professional valuation of all the properties the Council are unable to quantify that excess.
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 Honourable The Earl Grey
R.G. Roberts (Chairman and Honorary Treasurer)
Rev. Dr. P.C. Jupp
H. Thomas C.B.E.
Professor G.F. Woodroffe
Ms. C. Lambert
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 £54,000 during the year ended 31st March 2000.
The Right Honourable 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.||103||103||1,000||1,000|
|Non-Beneficial Trustee Interests:|
|The Right Honourable The Earl Grey||20,000||20,000|
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: 21st September 2000
R.N. Arber, Secretary