BEREAVEMENT bosses in Solihull have sparked an outcry after it was revealed they are exploring the possibility of “stacking” bodies before cremating them in order to save money.
As part of an efficiency review, the council is looking into saving costs by conducting several cremations simultaneously rather than immediately after each funeral serviced.
Conservative councillors Kate Wild and Peter Hogarth raised concerns over the “lean” review of the Robin Hood, Woodlands and Widney Manor cemeteries and crematoria sites, urging the “sensitive” issue to be first put before scrutiny.
But cabinet member for community services, Labour Councillor Graham Craig, insisted at a meeting that no firm decisions had yet been made.
After the meeting, Coun Hogarth, who represents Silhill, said: “They are looking at ways of saving funds at the crematorium. Other councils have started not cremating the bodies straight away and they are looking at that.
“But I feel that it’s not very dignified to be doing that. I also understand that some ethnic communities, when the body has gone behind the curtains, like to go to the back room to see the final stage of the body going into the cremator.”
He added: “The chair did say that this is all in the process of looking at ways to make savings, and it’s not concrete. But it’s a possibility. It seems a bit morbid.
“You think it’s the final stage when the coffin goes behind the curtain. But there could be half a dozen held around the back. Councillor Craig didn’t like the word ‘stacking’, but if you’ve got a lot of coffins waiting to be cremated it’s like that, isn’t it?”
It is understood that under the system, each coffin would go into a separate cremator furnace so each individual’s ashes remain apart.
A report said: “It is accepted that cremation equipment is not always utilised in the most efficient way. This has resulted on some occasions in higher than anticipated operational and service-related costs.
"It is considered that by adopting a more logistical-based approached to the programming of cremations, a more efficient and effective service will be delivered that benefits the environment due to reduced carbon emissions and through the reduced use of gas and electricity.”
Coun Craig said: “Currently all our cremations take place on the day of service. We are looking at how we may make service improvements; however, no decision has yet been made.”
The review also proposed the idea of recycling leftover metal following cremations – which could include orthopaedic surgical implants – with the consent of family members.