Annual Report
Year Ended 31st March 2003

The Cremation Society of Great Britain

Report of the Council

The members of the Council, who are the trustees of the charity and are also directors of the charity for the purposes of the Companies Act, submit their annual report and the audited financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2003. The trustees have adopted the provisions of the Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) "Accounting and Reporting by Charities" issued in October 2000 in preparing the annual report and financial statements of the charity. They have also taken this opportunity to prepare group accounts incorporating the consolidated figures for its subsidiary company, the London Cremation Company plc and the associated charity, Golders Green Foundation.

The Council has pleasure in offering its Report for the 12 months April 2002 to March 2003. This has been a year characterised by the increasing role of government in the arrangements for the disposal of the dead. Hence this Report summarises a number of these issues which have reached their climax in the Summer of 2003.


Objects of the Charity

The Society was founded in 1874 by Sir Henry Thompson, Bart, to promote and establish the practice of cremation for the disposal of bodies of dead persons and to join with local authorities or other bodies or persons for this purpose.

To achieve these objectives the charity:

  • through the establishment, ownership, management of or investment in crematoria, encourages the highest operational and ethical standards in cremation practice.
  • holds regular cremation conferences, organises meetings and lectures and fosters research.
  • publishes a quarterly magazine Pharos International.
  • publishes directories of crematoria.
  • collates and disseminates information on cremation related topics.
  • liaises and co-operates with other organisations, government departments and individuals, both nationally and internationally, on cremation matters.

Organisational Structure

The Council is elected by the members and currently consists of eight members and meets quarterly. The day to day operations of the charity are managed by the Secretary and his staff.

Statement of Council Members' Responsibilities

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 the group and of the net income or expense of the Society and the group for that period. In preparing those financial statements we are required to:

  • select suitable accounting policies and then apply them consistently;
  • make judgements and estimates that are reasonable and prudent;
  • state whether applicable accounting standards have been followed, subject to any material departures disclosed and explained in the financial statements;
  • prepare the financial statements on a going concern basis unless it is inappropriate to presume that the Society will continue in business.

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.

Related Parties

The charity has one subsidiary company, The London Cremation Company plc, a company registered in England, which owns and operates crematoria at Golders Green, Woking St John's, St Marylebone, Banbury and the Garden of England Crematorium in North East Kent.

The charity has a close relationship with Golders Green Foundation, which is a registered charity. It has the power to appoint the Trustees of Golders Green Foundation.

Review of Activities and Future Development

The results for the year are shown in the consolidated summary income and expenditure account and the consolidated statement of financial activities. The retained net income of the group for the year on unrestricted general funds was £630,328 as compared to net income of £504,301 in the previous year. This has been a year characterised by the increasing role of government in the arrangements for the disposal of the dead. Hence this Report summarises a number of these issues which have reached their climax in the Summer of 2003.

The London Cremation Company plc

During the year under review the Company's profit before taxation amounted to £689,377 from the planned disposal of fixed assets. Excluding exceptional items, profit improved by 35% to £176,952.

The Company carried out 5,032 cremations during the year. The Company's new crematorium, The Garden of England Crematorium in North East Kent, became operational in August 2003.

Golders Green Foundation

The excess of income over expenditure for the year before unrealised profit or revaluation of investments amounted to £5,043. No grants or donations were made during the year.

Abolition of the Recovery of Tax Credits on Dividend Income

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 5 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 5 April 2004 the Society's total UK 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 are taking reasonable steps to mitigate the adverse effects of this change in tax legislation.


The Society's archives stored at the University of Durham's Palace Green Library (Special Collections Section) continue to be an invaluable source of information to the public and research academics. The Society's archives at Durham can be accessed via the internet at


The Society's website at remains the leading website of any British cremation organisation. Providing free access to a rich source of material on all aspects of cremation in the United Kingdom it is regularly visited by the public, academics and those involved in the death care profession.

As a reference source on cremation legislation has proved particularly helpful for those involved in the various inquiries and reviews involving the cremation movement that have recently taken place. It also continues to be of value to these inquiries and reviews that are still ongoing.

Directory of Crematoria

Despite competition from other directories that have emerged in one form or another there is still steady demand for the Society's publication and income from this source was slightly up on the previous year. This has been due to its user-friendliness and the accuracy of information which is maintained by the use of regular questionnaires to cremation authorities.

Access to the content of the directory via public libraries, continues through a licensing agreement with Chadwyck Healy Ltd under their Know-UK website agreement. Royalty income from this source increased slightly over the previous year.

Whilst greater competition is to be expected during the coming year from the publishers of other directories the Society is confident that demand for its Directory of Crematoria will continue at a high level.

Annual Conference

The Society's Annual Conference held in July 2002 at Torquay contained a wide variety of important and topical subjects of interest for all those in the death care profession and particularly the cremation movement. Funding of Crematoria and Cemeteries generated a great deal of interest. International papers on Cremation in Australia, Cremation in France, and Cremation in Greece, which dealt with restrictions on the practice, were complemented by a paper on The Cremation Act 1902: from Private to Local to General. Cultural and theological aspects were covered by papers on Changing Christian Beliefs about Life After Death, Abrupt Death, Abrupt Disposal? Unexpected Loss and Bereavement Support, and Where have all the ashes gone?

Consumer interest focussed on Purchasing At-Need Funerals: The Changing Social Context, whilst both the professional and public interest was accommodated by papers on Building the Gates to Elysium: The Architecture of Post War British Crematoria, The Work of the Churches' Funerals Group, Civil Registration: Vital Change, Crematorium Medical Referees - Which Way Forward?, The Anatomy Act and Cremation, and The Forensic History of Tooth Restoration and the Problem for the Forensic Scientist. The Conference concluded with a lively debate during the ever popularPresidents' Panel.

Maintaining the exceptionally high standard of papers and speakers set at the 2002 Conference, the Society's 2003 Conference at Harrogate had international papers on The Feasibility of Urban Crematoria in Italy, The International Cremation Federation - The Future, and The European Funeral Standard. Cultural, psychological and theological aspects were covered by papers on Dealing with Disaster, Cremation and Cultural Change, and 'Sacred and Profane': The Architecture of British Crematoria 1980 to the Present Day.

Much food for thought for those with consumer interests was provided by Issues About Music at Crematoria, Opening Geoffrey Gorer's Door: A Personal Overview of Funerals 1983-2003, The Demise of the Funeral Ombudsman Scheme - The Aftermath, and Funeral Rights - Who Has the Final Say. Professional and public interest material was dealt with in papers on The Domestic and International Approach to Controlling Crematoria, Reclamation and Disposal of Implants - Ethical and Practical Considerations, and Medical Referees - The Way Forward. At the end of the Conference the Presidents' Panel provided an opportunity for topical and lively debate with Presidents of prominent organisations within the funeral profession.

Pharos International

First published in 1934 Pharos International still maintains its position as the leading cremation publication in Great Britain's cremation movement and one of the leading cremation publications world-wide, with copies presently circulating in 41 countries. Following a change of Secretary-Generalship of the International Cremation Federation, the Society no longer houses the Secretariat of the Federation, nevertheless Pharos International will continue to be the official journal of the Federation.

In the last Report of the Council reference was made to proposed changes in the journal's production schedule as part of an overall plan to reduce costs and ultimately losses. We are pleased to report that these changes have now borne fruit and significant savings have been achieved. As a result Pharos International is no longer published at a loss. If this position is maintained over the coming years it will prove of even greater benefit to the Society's work.

Office for National Statistics

In June 2002 the Society responded to a White Paper published by the Office for National Statistics entitled Civil Registration: Vital Change. The Civil Registration Review Team advised that any proposed legislative changes will be implemented by way of an Order under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001. The first stage of the process would be the publication of a further consultation document which would provide the Society and other interested parties with a further opportunity to comment on proposals. This was scheduled for the end of 2002, but the consultation document was only issued in July 2003. Unfortunately it would appear that none of the points raised by the Society have been taken up and it will therefore make further representations as provided for in the consultation document.

Retained Organs Commission

The Society responded to the consultation document published in 2002 by the Commission and entitledTissue Blocks and Slides - A Consultation Paper. Reference is made in the document to "respectful disposal" in the context of the disposal of body parts, tissues, tissue blocks, and slides, but the term is not defined, as there is an assumption that this is self-evident. Further consideration on this point reveals it as a very complex issue and the definition is subjective. For all those involved in the disposal of the dead it is extremely important that it should be clear.

The Society is encouraging the Retained Organs Commission to hold a seminar to address this matter in order to define the criteria to be applied in determining whether a disposal is respectful. The Society has offered its services in organising, staging or coordinating a suitable event and the Commission are currently considering the Society's proposals in this respect.

The Shipman Inquiry

Throughout the year the Society continued to assist the Shipman Inquiry Team by providing information about the practice of cremation in England and Wales, particularly on legislative issues.

The Inquiry's second and third reports consisting of approximately 165 and 617 pages respectively were published in July 2003. These are being reviewed by the Society and should it feel that it is necessary to make any representations then it will do so. However, as regards the future of cremation certification, in which the Society has an obvious interest, the Inquiry considered the present procedure carried out in most places to be of little value. As a result, a new system of certification for all deaths, not just those for cremation, is being recommended. Like the Brodrick Report, Dame Janet Smith DBE, Chairman of the Inquiry, recognises that the main recommendations might not be implemented as rapidly or as completely as desired. In such event it is her strong recommendation that the cremation certification system should be preserved and that the forms should be standardised throughout the country and modernised. Above all it should be mandatory for the Form C doctor to question at least one person who is independent of the Form B doctor and who has some knowledge of the circumstances of death.

If it should appear that the post of medical referee is likely to remain in existence for more than a few months from the publication of the Report, then it was recommended that any new appointments should be scrutinised by the Home Office and should be approved only if the applicant has suitable medical experience, as well as five years' standing. Further, the Home Office should provide training and guidance material, explaining the Medical Referee's role and the way in which it should be performed, and should fund periodic meetings of the Association of Crematorium Medical Referees.

The Environment Sub-Committee Inquiry into Cemeteries

The Society's representative continues to serve as a member of the Burial and Cemeteries Advisory Group formed to consider and address the recommendations arising from the Environment Sub-Committee's Inquiry into Cemeteries. One of the main tasks of the group is to undertake a major review of burial law. Progress has not been as speedy as expected.

Review of Coroner Services

The Society has continued to serve as a member of the Reference Group formed by the Review Group appointed by the Home Office to address this matter. The Report entitled Death Certification and Investigation into England, Wales and Northern Ireland - The Report of a Fundamental Review 2003 published by the Home Office and in which the Society is recorded as a member of the Review Group, was published in June 2003 and consists of some 300 pages.

With regard to the area of death certification, support and supervision in which the Society has a particular interest, the Review Group made a number of recommendations including the following:

  • That the legislation governing death certification in England and Wales and Northern Ireland should be amended to allow for adaptation of the certification system, for the piloting of change, and for differences of approach in different settings where this would be desirable.
  • To provide support for doctors in death certification, to audit the death certification process and create links between death certification and death investigations performed through the Coroner Service, there should be a new post of Statutory Medical Assessor created in each coroner area, to be filled by doctors working alongside the coroner.
  • The General Medical Council and the Royal Colleges should acknowledge the importance of death certification in the initial training, and continuing professional education of medical students and doctors.
  • As regards verifying and certifying deaths, it was recommended that the existing cremation certification process should not be continued. There should be a common certification process for all deaths not reported to the coroner, whether the body is to be buried or cremated, and that process should in each case bring two professional opinions to bear before disposal of the body is authorised.
  • The Statutory Medical Assessor in each coroner area should appoint a panel of doctors to provide all community second certifications.
  • There should be no general requirement that all bodies be viewed by the certifying doctor before certification.
  • For deaths in hospital there should be in principle the same two tier certification process in which the Statutory Medical Assessor would appoint and support doctors to perform second certification. He should also approve each hospital's policy for referring deaths for second certification.
  • All certification should be done by fully registered doctors, and second certifiers in hospitals should be of consultant status.
  • Authorisation to dispose of the body should be given by the second certifier at the time he completes the second certification, and should not wait on the process of registering the death.
  • The maximum interval between the death and the preceding visit or attendance by the certifying doctor or his practice partner should be 28 days.
  • The family representative should provide or confirm full personal details of the person who has died, should have a right to be informed of the cause of death given by the first certifier, and a right to talk to the second certifier.
  • Copies of the new certification material be sent to and retained by the Area Coroner Office so that the Statutory Medical Assessor can perform the audit function on the basis of full information.
  • The cost of the new certification system should be met from the funds of the recommended new Death Certification and Coroner Service. This is expected to lead to a saving to families choosing cremation of £100.


The 2003 Barcelona Congress of the International Cremation Federation saw the retirement of the Society's Secretary as its Secretary-General, following the completion of a fourth term of office. The Secretariat of the Federation which is housed at the Society's office will now be transferred to the office of the new Secretary-General in The Hague. Despite his retirement as Secretary-General our Secretary was elected a Vice-President by the General Council and will continue to serve on the Executive Committee and Sub-Committees of the Federation, maintaining the Society's important link and influence in the international cremation movement.

Since our Secretary's appointment as Secretary-General in 1990 the membership and diversity of the Federation has grown significantly over the years making it a truly world-wide organisation with United Nations Non Governmental Organisation status. Since 1990 the number of members has grown significantly and the Federation is now in a sound financial position.

Throughout the year under review the Federation continued to maintain contact with, and assist, representatives from Greece and Lithuania in their attempts to establish cremation facilities in their respective countries.

European Funeral Standard

The European Standard Body (Comité Européen de Normalisation) formed in response to an initiative from the German Institute for Standardisation to prepare a European Funeral Standard continues with its work in developing a standard which could cover terminology, criteria, provision of funeral services, and possibly qualification requirements for those in the funeral industry. The Society continues to represent the cremation interests of the United Kingdom as a member of the national committee operating under the auspices of the British Standards Institute. The Society's Secretary is a member of the National Committee.

It is expected that the initial work of the CEN will be completed towards the end of 2004 when a consultation document will be circulated to all participating countries. The Society believes that funerals are intrinsically cultural affairs, and whilst there is great merit in standardisation proposals the Society wishes to reaffirm that it would not wish to see regulation and the inevitable bureaucracy stifle our cultural heritage expressed through the medium of the traditional funeral.


Until May 2003 there had been no formal response from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the results of the research jointly commissioned and funded by the Cremation Society and the Federation of British Cremation Authorities that was published in 2001 in a report entitledReview of Emissions from Crematoria in the UK and which was referred to in the last Report of the Council. Neither had there been any further communication with members of the Process Guidance Notes Working Party. However through its involvement with the International Cremation Federation the Society became aware of the existence of OSPAR (Oslo-Paris) Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic and its Hazardous Substances Committee whose Chairman is from DEFRA. Through the medium of the ICF, national cremation movements, including our own, were alerted to what might be under discussion.

In the absence of any response from DEFRA a number of editorials were published in Pharos International speculating on what the repercussions might be for the United Kingdom cremation movement. In May 2003 and without any prior warning a document entitled Mercury Emissions from Crematoria - Consultation on an assessment by the Environment Agency's Local Authority Unit was circulated. If the proposals set out in the document are allowed to come to fruition without any modification then it is possible that

  • There will be a further substantial burden on cremation authorities estimated at £150m and more.
  • 23% of Great Britain's crematoria may close (largely those operated by local authorities).
  • There may be fundamental changes to the cremation service in Great Britain.
  • Consequent capital costs may produce an increase in cremation fees of between £70 and £100 per funeral.

All these figures were based on 2001 values.

The Society has made a suitable representation in which it raises a number of material points. It has always been the Society's stance that before any decisions are taken there should be a comprehensive, independent programme of testing in order to obtain factual data in order to put any problem into perspective. So far this has not been the case.

The proposals set out in the document could have the most far reaching repercussions for the cremation movement since their introduction could well transform out of any recognition the dignified and respectful way in which cremation is carried out.

Memorandum and Articles of Association

Outstanding points relating to the Society's new Memorandum and Articles of Association are near to being resolved and it is proposed that notice of an Extraordinary General Meeting be given during the winter 2003/4 in order to submit the necessary resolutions to members for their approval.

As previously reported, a new Memorandum is required in order to emphasise the Society's objectives "in encouraging the highest operational and ethical standards in cremation practice through the establishment, ownership, management of or investment in crematoria and associated facilities, and by such other means as the Council thinks fit".

To this end the Society's subsidiary, the London Cremation Company plc, completed the building of Great Britain's newest crematorium now known as the Garden of England Crematorium, Sittingbourne, Kent.

Joint Life Member Certificates

Following the transfer of engagements of the Pharos Assurance Friendly Society (formerly known as the Cremation Assurance Friendly Society) to the Nottingham Friendly Society, the Cremation Society continues to receive, under an internal arrangement, full reimbursement from the Nottingham Friendly Society in respect of any claims settled under joint life membership certificates.

There is a provision in the accounts for the Society's future liability under founder member certificates and this is reassessed annually. As the number of claims and amount per claim has increased recently it has been decided to retain the existing provision.


Updating and transfer of necessary data to the new computer system has yet to be completed, especially with regard to membership records, which are currently retained in manual format. Despite the foregoing the new system is making a material contribution to office efficiency and the quality of work produced.

Brecon House

The acquisition of Brecon House in 1999 continues to illustrate how prudent this move was by the Society, providing it with long-term financial security. With the experience of continuing low interest rates it continues to be a very sound investment. As an investment property the Society's careful management ensures that it is maintained in good order and in this respect the Society is looking to appoint a professional property manager.

Brecon House continues to provide free of charge a fully staffed, independent permanent office providing a service from 9am to 5pm, five days a week, to deal with enquiries from the public and existing or prospective cremation authorities. Its staff and up to date administration system ensures that it can provide an efficient, first class service.


During 2002, His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster and the head of the Roman Catholic Church in this country, consented to serve as a Vice President of the Society. He was elected to this position by members at the Society's 2002 Annual General Meeting. His appointment should no longer leave any doubts in the minds of Catholics as to their Church's attitude towards cremation. Being eligible, he will be standing for re-election at the Society's forthcoming Annual General Meeting.

In 2003, the Rt Revd Dr Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, consented to be appointed a Vice President of the Society. Bishop Geoffrey's ministry to date has been characterised by pastoral care, theology and teaching (he is a distinguished church historian), and contributions to improving relations between the Churches. He will be familiar to those in the death-care profession through his chairmanship of the Churches' Funerals Group. Being eligible he will be standing for election at the Society's forthcoming Annual General Meeting.

Council Members

The Society's Council already comprises highly qualified members prominent in their individual fields of expertise. Nevertheless, it is the Council's intention to increase its expertise and widen its influence through the appointment of further appropriate members whenever possible.

Future Development

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 co-operate with kindred organisations when the cause of cremation is being promoted and will at all times, through its interests in cremation companies, promote the practice of cremation to the highest standard.

It will continue to consolidate relationships already established with government and departments such as the Home Office, Office for National Statistics, Department of Trade and Industry, Office of Fair Trading, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Environment Agency, Review of Coroner Services, and the Retained Organs Commission. It will cultivate relationships with other government departments as appropriate and will continue to contribute to any Inquiries or Reviews that may be relevant to the cremation profession.

As a priority the Society will continue to play an active role in international affairs through its representation on the Executive Committee and Sub-Committees of the International Cremation Federation.

The Society will seek the approval of members to a new Memorandum and Articles of Association during the winter of 2003/4, incorporating greater emphasis on its involvement with crematoria in order to promote its aims as well as making provision for various forms of membership.

Following the installation of a new computerised office administration system it will continue inputting data in order to make the best possible use of the facility.


The Council takes this opportunity to express its thanks for the work and dedication of the Society's Secretary and all his team at Brecon House.

Reserves Policy

The Council has reviewed the reserves of the Society. This review encompassed the nature of the major income and expenditure streams, the need to match income and expenditure and the nature of the Society's resources generated by activities in furtherance of the charity's objects. The Council also considered the nature of the Society's assets, which include the investment portfolio, investment property, the investment in its subsidiary company and the assets used directly for charitable purposes.

Resulting from this review, the Council have come to the conclusion that the reserves represented by the investment in the subsidiary should be considered separately. To enable the Society to continue to meet its objectives, to operate efficiently, to carry out its future plans and to provide a buffer for unexpected costs, the Council conclude that an unrestricted general reserve, excluding the value of the investment in the subsidiary, of approximately £1,000,000 should currently be maintained.

The Society also has a restricted fund that is represented by cash at bank and other specific net assets. The movements on this fund are detailed at Note 22 of the financial statements.

Risk Management

The Council regularly review the major risks which the Society may be exposed to and in particular those relating to the operation and finances of the Society. The Council are satisfied that maintaining the unrestricted general reserves at the level stated above will provide sufficient resources for the foreseeable future.

Market Value of Freehold and Leasehold Land and Buildings

In the opinion of the Directors of the subsidiary company, the market value of its freehold and leasehold land and buildings is considerably in excess of the net book value of £2,816,778. In the absence of a professional valuation of all the properties the Council are unable to quantify that excess.

Officers and Council

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
Revd. Dr. P.C. Jupp
R.G. Roberts (Honorary Treasurer)
H. Thomas C.B.E.
S.R.G. White
Professor G.F. Woodroffe
Ms. C. Lambert
Dr. S. Leadbeatter (Appointed 3 April 2002)

On 23 April 2003 Mr A D McCarthy was appointed to the Council and will be proposed for election at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting. For many years Mr McCarthy served as National Funeral Services Manager, Co-operative Funeral Services, having responsibility for over 30,000 funerals per annum and all that this entails. His knowledge of all aspects of the funeral directing profession will prove invaluable to the work of the Society.

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 £56,000 during the year ended 31st March 2003 (2002:£53,800).

The Right Honourable The Earl Grey
Revd. Dr. P.C. Jupp
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
  31/3/03 1/4/02 31/3/03 1/4/02
The Right Honourable The Earl Grey     100 100
R.G. Roberts     250 250
H. Thomas C.B.E. 1,182 1,182 1,000 1,000
Revd. Dr. P.C. Jupp     100 100
Non-Beneficial Trustee Interests:        
The Right Honourable The Earl Grey 220,000 220,000    

The Right Honourable The Earl Grey is a Trustee of the Golders Green Foundation.

Corporate Governance

The subsidiary company, The London Cremation Company plc, is a listed company and operates in full compliance with the applicable provisions of the Code of Best Practice, set out in section 1 of the Combined Code.


A resolution will be submitted to the forthcoming Annual General Meeting that Messrs. Larkings, Chartered Accountants, be re-appointed Auditors of The Society.


Date: 20 August 2003
R.N. Arber, Secretary