Understanding and following procedures

September 29, 2016   //   No Comments

paul allcock presidentI think I’m turning into a grumpy old man!!

Last week I had the pleasure of reaching another milestone on the journey of life, when I passed my 50th birthday. I’m not sure if it is due to me being older and wiser, or older and grumpier, but I do seem to recognise things today which annoy me more than I ever did when I was younger.

There are many situations which arise in our role as Funeral Directors in which we seem to be the only ones who actually understand what procedures should be followed, even when it isn’t our responsibility to do so. One example recently was when I was asked to organise a burial on private land.  I don’t know what other people’s experiences have been, but trying to find someone at the local authority who actual knew what their responsibility is, was a challenge in itself. I ended up having to explain to them some of the searches they needed to do before authorising us to proceed.

But then I was presented with a situation which probably affects all Funeral Directors on a fairly regular basis: a burial in a local parish council cemetery. Not that there is anything unusual about that, but what struck me most and hit me like a lightning strike was why I was being charged a purchase fee for the grave and an interment fee, when I was digging the grave myself! Why I hadn’t questioned this before, was probably because I wasn’t taking enough notice of the charges and how they were set out on the price lists and invoices of the parish councils. When I looked into it further, I found that both councils which have their own grave diggers and those which we have to provide a grave digger for, had price lists which include an interment fee!

My belief is that this is likely to be an historic issue from the time when many churches and parish councils did have a local man or two who would dig the graves. I know this from my own experience of digging graves around Norfolk. I have lost count of the number of vocal local yokels who told me they used to dig the graves in this cemetery, and who always had some advice to give. It would appear that although the graves are more often than not now prepared by the Funeral Director’s own grave digger, the charge has remained on the price list and invoice, as it has been passed on from parish clerk to parish clerk through the years. In discussion with one local clerk, the answer was simply that the charge had always been there, but she didn’t know why. While I have no issue with the costs that most local parish councils charge (often much less than burials elsewhere), I suggested that perhaps a restructuring of the pricing would be advisable to avoid any confusion for the Funeral Director, and more importantly for the bereaved, who receive an invoice from us charging a fee for digging the grave, plus an interment fee from the cemetery. If I don’t understand what I’m being charged for, I’m certain that our clients won’t.

I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has experienced difficulties with this or any similar scenarios, and any views that anyone has about the same.

Thanks for reading and please don’t hesitate to respond.