Research and Analytics


CIPFA Cemeteries Statistics

January 2004

A brief summary of the development of the service is given below and it is hoped that this will be of interest to users of these statistics. This summary has been taken from the Environmental Services Volume (21) of the Institute's Financial Information Services.

''The Church of England dominated the provision of space for burial until the early nineteenth century. Dissatisfaction with the control of the Church over this provision, and with conditions in often overcrowded, unhygienic churchyards provoked calls for change in the first half of the nineteenth century. From the 1820s private sector cemetery companies began to be established. They used the sale of shares to finance the laying out of new, often extensive and attractively landscaped, sites on the periphery of towns. By 1850, in many places, the Church lost its virtual monopoly on burial provision. Legislation passed during the 1850s permitted new cemeteries to be established by local burial boards, with funds raised through the local rates. Private sector involvement in cemetery establishment declined. Private cemeteries are still operated under the Cemeteries Clauses Act 1847 but almost all the other Acts were repealed by the Local Government Act 1972. It is not uncommon for there to be churchyard burials and parishioners still have a common law right to be buried in the parish churchyard if there is space available.'

The Local Government Act 1972 provides that the following authorities shall be burial authorities :-
  1. District Councils
  2. London Borough Councils
  3. The Common Council of the City of London
  4. Parish Councils
  5. Community Councils (Wales)
  6. Parish Meetings (of parishes having no Parish Councils)

However, coverage has been restricted to the London Boroughs, Metropolitan Districts, Unitary Authorities and Non-Metropolitan Districts in England and Wales. To make the study fully comprehensive would have required returns from some 10,000 parish councils.

The intention of the survey is to provide basic information, particularly on levels of charges, to local authorities in an area of activity for which few comparative data are published.

2002-03 Statistics

Returns were received from 311 authorities, a response rate of 83%. However, 49 authorities submitted 'nil' returns having delegated control of cemeteries to parish councils.

Expenditure on employees accounts for 27.2% of gross expenditure. This is mainly as a result of authorities contracting out elements of their cemeteries service to the private sector. More authorities are moving towards the introduction of economic charges for burial of the dead and a greater proportion of expenditure is now being recovered from fees and charges, 58.5% in 2002-03.

Tables 1 and 4 overleaf reflect the total local authority expenditure and income on cemeteries since 1998-99. Table 1 also provides an indication of a general trend to fund a greater proportion of expenditure from fees and charges. Users should note that the figures have been 'grossed' up to take account of non responding authorities for each year represented in the table, therefore caution should be used when comparing figures with those shown in previous years' publications.

Table 1 summarises trends in expenditure and income over the past 5 years:

Expenditure and Income 1998-99 to 2002-03
There is however a very wide dispersion in the charges made by local authorities, as illustrated in Tables 2 and 3 below, which would suggest that for most authorities the cost of cemetery services is dependent on particular local circumstances.

Fees and Charges 1.04.03
The net cost to the public (including Capital Charges) in 2002-03 was 1.02 for every man, woman and child, the cost in Wales being substantially higher than in other areas.

Net Expenditure Per Head 2002-03
How Expenditure on Cemeteries was Financed (excluding capital charges)
Subjective Analysis of Expenditure (excluding capital charges)
Fees/Charges for Adult Parishioner ( )
Cemeteries Statistics 2002-03 Actuals - Summary Sheet

January 2004

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