Only two Saturday burials so far in Bedford cemetery’s six month trial

Bedford Cemetery and Crematorium, Norse Road
Bedford Cemetery and Crematorium, Norse Road

A council’s six-month trial to allow Saturday burials at a cemetery for religious reasons has seen only two take place since January.

A Bedford Council committee on Thursday heard that one Muslim, and one Christian burial had taken place at Norse Road Cemetery since the trial started.

The Environment and Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee was told that the service had been requested by the town’s MP and a councillor.

Cllr Fouzia Zamir (Lab, Cauldwell) asked: “How has it been advertised? Most people I talk to think you can’t do this on the cemetery site.”

Sam Smith, the council’s team leader for bereavement services, said that meetings had been held with the Muslim community.

“Most of the mosques know about it and the funeral directors have been told,” he said.

And Paul Pace, chief officer for environment, said the council works quite closely with the Muslim community, and the trial is reasonably well known in other communities, and among local funeral directors.

But Cllr Zamir added: “There are eight or nine mosques in Bedford, perhaps we could put a poster up.”

Even though Saturday burials have been made available for all faith groups, and none, followers of Muslim and Jewish religions say burial should take place as soon as possible after death.

But of the average 194 burials that take place at Norse Road every year, only six are expected to be “out of hours”.

Following the conclusion of the trial scheme, the council’s executive will have to decide whether to continue with the service. And if it does, whether the service should be further extended to cover Sundays and bank holidays.

Councillors heard that the provision of cemeteries is “discretionary”, and one that the council does not have to provide.

The committee was told that the cost of a burial at the cemetery is currently £763 during the week and £1,218.60 at weekends, which includes a Saturday Supplement of £455 covering staff costs.

Cllr Roger Rigby (Cons, Bromham & Biddenham) said: “I welcome the trial and I would like it to be better taken up. Perhaps we should extend it and have more promotional activity.”

The committee noted the report and plans to reconsider the issue once the council’s Executive has made its decision.