The sale of Bretby Crematorium will be determined by just one man, it has been revealed.
A secret meeting of Tory-controlled East Staffordshire Borough Council decided that Richard Grosvenor, leader of the controlling authority, will determine the outcome of the controversial plan to privatise the site.
It was revealed last week that the council- owned Geary Lane crematorium has attracted four separate bids to buy the facility.
The Mail now understands that funeral services giant Midlands Co-op is the preferred option.
News that the crematorium — jointly owned by the borough council and South Derbyshire District Council — may be sold, has attracted criticism from residents whose relatives’ ashes are scattered on site, as well as grieving families worried that prices for services and cremations could soar.
The sale was discussed at Monday’s behind-closed-doors council meeting and Conservatives unanimously agreed to allow Tory Councillor Grosvenor to decide the proposed sale alone. The Labour party, and independent councillor, Frank Bather, voted against.
After discussions by the crematorium’s joint committee today the sale will then be recommended for approval by leader of the district council, Bob Wheeler during the authority’s full council meeting.
Councillor Bather, who was approached by the Mail and was present at the meeting, said the decision should be made by the public.
“I am totally against the sale based on the information I have read in the Mail, following a cabinet meeting and quotes from other parties.
“If it is an issue, a public consultation is needed and I am more than surprised it has not been before the public or in the East Staffordshire News publication.
“This may even have a bearing on the forthcoming elections as the public are going to look very carefully.
“The council could sell other assets in preference to the disposal of the crematorium.” Kevin Richards, opposition Labour group leader at the district council, agreed about the lack of public response, saying: “We have never had any manifesto on this and there has not been a public consultation. It is a public asset.”
When asked if he believed the sale was a done deal, he said: “I think East Staffordshire will snap their hands off and there is nothing stopping the chosen bidder from then selling it on.”
Councillor Grosvenor did not comment on the circumstances in which he can solely decide the outcome, as it was a decision made behind closed doors, with the Press and public excluded.
However, he had previously said: “I do not see how at this time it is possible for anyone to say whether the sale of Bretby Crematorium will have a negative impact when the details of any potential sale, which is still in discussion at this point, have not been made public, and the full benefits of any potential sale not fully explained to be taken into account.”
Councillor Wheeler said he hoped any buyer ‘would be a good, solid, responsible organisation’.
They also must be in a position to invest in the crematorium.