Agenda item


            The Committee was reminded that, at its meeting on 9th August, it had agreed to write to Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council re Blaris Cemetery Fees and the Department for Communities re review of burial ground regulations in relation to fees.


            The Committee was referred to responses that had been received from LCCC’s Head of Service and from the Director, Local Government and Housing Regulation Division.  


            In the response from LCCC, the officer detailed that as a result of Local Government Reform, the Council boundary had changed which had resulted in certain areas of the former Lisburn City Council (and former Castlereagh Borough Council) transferring to the Belfast City Council area, which included the Collin Area. In recognising the potential financial impact of this on former ratepayers, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council (L&CCC) had agreed to offer a time bound 3-year subsidy to those former ratepayers making use of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council cemeteries. This subsidy had been supported from April 2015 until March 2018 and matched the overall regional rates convergence scheme which had been implemented by Central Government for household rates. Both schemes had ended on 31st March 2018 and at the conclusion of this subsidy the council had been consistent in its approach.


            He reported that from April 2015 there had been several requests around the same subject. Officers had maintained a consistent approach and complied with the policy and any previous queries/complaints of this nature had not been upheld. Furthermore, the Council had also been reviewed by the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO) on a similar challenge and had been supported in the decision making and consistency of approach concerning this matter.


            He also drew reference to the position of former Castlereagh ratepayers who had existing graves within Knockbreda Cemetery, highlighting that many of the former Castlereagh Borough Council ratepayers within the newly formed L&CCC had graves within Knockbreda.


            He concluded by advising that the Council reviewed its charging scheme annually and this included charges associated with cemetery provision.


            In the DfC response regarding fees for burials, the Director had advised that the Burial Grounds Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1992 were made under section 181 of the Public Health Ireland Act 1878 Act (the 1878 Act). Explaining that this section did not provide the Department with the power to make regulations regarding burial fees.  He advised that the Department had no role in the settling of burial fees which was the sole responsibility of Councils.


            The Members discussed both responses and, to try and progress the matter, it was agreed that Council officers from both Councils should meet to discuss the issue further.  It was also suggested that the Chief Executive be asked to raise the matter through SOLACE.


            The Committee noted the correspondence and agreed:


·        that officers from BCC would arrange to discuss the cemetery fees further with their counterparts in LCCC and that the Committee would be further briefed in due course on these discussions;

·        to write to the DfC seeking it to undertake a broader strategic review of the Burial Grounds Regulations, regarding the power to make regulations concerning burial fees; and

·        to ask the Chief Executive to raise the differential in burial fees across Council boundaries at the next meeting of SOLACE.   


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