Reading Borough Councill (RBC) will purchase two new cremators for a combined £1.5 million, after the current facilities reached the end of their life.

The plan is part of the council’s budget for 2021/22 and 2022/23, with the cremators to be in place at the Reading Cemetery and Crematorium by the end of the 2022/23 financial year.

The council spent £350,000 on a temporary cremator during the pandemic after one of them failed just before the first Covid lockdown.

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In Reading, far more people are cremated than buried. On average, approximately 1,700 cremations take place each year, compared to around 400 burials.

In 2020, at the peak of the first wave, the number of cremations increased by approximately 96 per cent compared to the previous two years for the same period, while the number of burials remained similar.

A council spokesman said: “The cremators had started to reach the end of their life with regular ongoing repairs being necessary.

“One failed completely just prior to the initial lockdown.

“Unfortunately, the company which manufactured and supplied the two cremators went into liquidation in January 2020.

“In order to ensure continued resilience of the service at the height of the pandemic, the decision was made to purchase a temporary cremator as an interim solution whilst a full procurement exercise was undertaken.”

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The £1.5 million covers the cost of replacing the two existing permanent cremators, essential ancillary equipment and all necessary building works.

Most of the expenditure (£1.3 million) is planned in 2022/23, with the initial work to start in 2021/22.

The life of a cremator can vary depending on the number of cremations it performs, however, on average, it lasts between 10 years to 15 years, according to RBC.

The council purchased the last two cremators in 2011, one of which has now failed.