Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Today I'd a real hotchpotch of meetings. The first was about scrutiny reviews and how they're progressing as well as the future work programme. There seems to be a consensus in the council that the next 12 months is a time for examining all of our services and seeing where we can make savings so that we don't need to have big cuts in essential services or big job losses. It won't be easy to make those decisions but they'll have to be made unless there's a huge economic turn round. The reduction in interest on money invested until needed runs into millions and that would have paid for some of our services.
At lunch time the Fairtrade Partnership met though there had been some confusion over the date of the meeting so a few people didn't make it. We were lucky to have Cllr John Fletcher, mayor of Stockton there. He wasn't there in his official capacity but it did make it easier to discuss our plans for Fairtrade Fortnight with him there instead of others having to guess what he might think. I could pass round the proofs of the directory and they were very well received. I'm looking forward to the launch on February 28th.
The third meeting of the day was about progress on the recommendations from the scrutiny reviews of cemeteries and memorials. A great deal has been done and the new leaflets available from Bereavement Services are very attractive and easy to understand. Apparently some of them are flying off the shelf faster than the staff can replace them. Particularly popular are ones on arranging your own funeral and on alternative coffins. It's good that people are starting to think ahead and plan for their death. It does make it so much easier for those left behind. Some of the work out in the cemeteries is behind schedule, partly because of the weather and partly because we didn't realise just how long it would take to do some of the things. However, we hope to get back on track over the summer. The feasibility study on whether Stockton should have its own crematorium is ready to come to the Environment committee and I was pleased to see in the report that the quality of the experience for the mourners was discussed, including longer time slots than are currently available at Middlesbrough being suggested as desirable now. There's still a lot of work to be done before any decisions are taken but at least something has started moving.

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