Number of weekly cremations in Leeds jumps from 96 to 160
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It follows calls to relax rules, introduced shortly after the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown, stopping services taking place in crematoria chapels and restricting the number of mourners allowed in the funeral grounds.
During a meeting of the council’s decision-making executive board, the leader of the Leeds Liberal Democrats group Coun Stewart Golton claimed the council should look towards Kirklees and Wakefield, which now allows chapel services to take place.
But the council’s director of environment James Rogers told the meeting that Wakefield had greater capacity than Leeds to deal with its deaths via cremation, adding that Leeds was currently having to carry out a cremation once ‘every 30 or 40 minutes’.
Coun Golton told the meeting: “The council introduced a system to safeguard the process and the employees there. We have had a lot of feedback from people saying they feel the processes lack sensitivity. If other authorities can do it differently, we should look at how we can manage to do that and how we will respond accordingly.
“Wakefield are doing things differently and I know now that Kirklees are doing things differently and copying what Wakefield are doing.”
Mr Rogers responded: “To put it in context, in an average week we have around 96 cremations. Over the last few weeks, the number has been closer to 160 – which is significantly more than we would normally manage.
“That has meant the regularity of the cremations have been roughly every 30 or 40 minutes, which has meant that the deep cleane that is required between the service in line with government guidance isn’t able to be done.
“This is why we have put in place other measures to support families in how they can attend funerals and mourn for their loved ones.”
He added the council was in regular contact with other local authorities, and that Wakefield was able to impose different rules due to having a ‘lower number of cremations and two crematoria to deal with them’.
According to Leeds City Council’s website, services in its crematorium chapels are not taking place, and only the funeral director and officiant can enter the chapel.
It adds that one option is for up to 10 family members to attend the crematorium grounds to see the coffin being taken into the chapel.