On the road at last

words: Mark Porteous, National SAIF President
President's October update

I’m absolutely delighted to now have the opportunity to be out and about, meeting you, our members, at last. When I took on the role as your President, I had been very much looking forward to being out on the road meeting you all, whether that be visiting you in your own premises or catching up with you at regional meetings. Last year, of course, none of this was possible, but with the welcome easing of restrictions, I can now be let loose!

I attended our Executive Meeting on September 14 at Sawbridgeworth and, as you can imagine, the main topic of conversation was the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) Legal Order. It is important for members to know that the SAIF Executive has been vigorously fighting your corner on this matter over the last couple of years.

Our CMA Task Group, consisting of Terry Tennens, Jeremy West, Sean Martin, Paul Allcock and Joe Murren, has been working tirelessly on your behalf and I would like to thank them personally for all their efforts. There is no doubt that without their hard work the outcome might have been a lot worse, with the introduction of price capping a real possibility. A further investigation, however, is still an option for the CMA to consider in the future.

In my opinion, the Standardised Price List does very little to help the consumer identify who is best placed to carry out their wishes. It is based on several assumptions and by its very nature is purely price driven. It does not take into consideration the quality of service, standards of care, the investment you make in infrastructure, or how you help the many worthwhile causes or groups within your communities.

I am in no doubt the CMA has got this wrong and, although I accept this is a Legal Order, this does not mean we cannot or should not challenge it.

It is for this reason that I asked SAIF to create a CMA Response Task Group. We will spend the next six months gathering data and responses, both from you and members of the public, with a view to lobbying MPs. Therefore, please do not hesitate to contact SAIF if you have any information or are concerned about any aspect of the CMA Legal Order. We are here to help.

Now, back to what else I have been up to! As I touched on earlier, I attended the National Executive Meeting on Tuesday, September 14 at Sawbridgeworth. I think this was our first face-to-face meeting with all the Executive in attendance. We also held a Special General Meeting in the afternoon to vote through a new Code of Practice. This is in draft form at the moment and over the next few months more information will be coming out to members.

After the meeting, I travelled to Bury St Edmunds and attended the Suffolk Regional Meeting, held in West Suffolk Crematorium, with Terry Tennens, SAIF’s Chief Executive. The meeting was very well attended and due to its location, several National SAIF Executive members also joined the many members in attendance. I would like to thank the Executive members for their contributions on the night and a special thanks to Sean Martin who spoke exceptionally well about the CMA Legal Order.

There were also several Associate members at the meeting who all got the opportunity to say a few words about their businesses. In addition, Malcolm Flanders from Golden Charter spoke about the future impact of regulation coming in next year.

I would like to personally thank Alan Jose, Group Ambassador for the Westerleigh Group, and all his staff on duty, for their hospitality and the very informative crematorium tour. The buffet and refreshments were very much appreciated!

Fast forward to Wednesday, September 22 and I was on my travels again with Terry. We both attended the North East Regional Meeting which was being held at the JC Atkinson factory. Again, it was a very informative meeting and there was also an opportunity to have a factory tour. I would like to thank Greg Cranfield and his team at JC Atkinson for taking the time to give our members a look around the factory. The tour is available to any member, and I know Greg and his team would be positively delighted to show you around and discuss their many products on offer.

The following day, Terry and I travelled over to Atherton for our scheduled North West Regional Meeting at Howe Crematorium. En route, we decided to call upon a couple of members who made us most welcome and accommodated us at very short notice.

First, we visited Paul and Sarah Barton of Barton and Hallworth Funeral Services in Accrington. It was great to meet them and listen to how they managed to work through the stresses of running a funeral business through COVID-19. Both Sarah and Paul are fully committed to offering the best possible service they can, and I am sure their community appreciates all their efforts. Both joined us at the regional meeting later that night.

We then visited Greg, Trish and Melissa Dabrowski who own Ainsworth’s Funeral Service in Darwen. I must admit that the size of their premises took me by surprise! Greg informed Terry and I how the building was originally purpose-built in 1871 and included stabling for 12 horses.

Gregg, Trish and Melissa took time out of their busy days to show us round their very impressive facilities and it was clear how much the family took pride in them. Melissa not only works within the business full time but looks after her son Oscar, who I first met at Past President Jim’s AGM in 2020. Oscar is no longer a small baby and now has his very own battery operated Mercedes car to drive around their spacious garage facilities. I have no doubt it won’t be too long before he is driving families around Darwen as the next generation of the Dabrowski family!

Melissa has created her own range of jewellery and Greg and Trish work extremely hard making sure all their families are looked after in the SAIF way. There is no doubt the Dabrowskis also focus on offering their families the best service possible and it is abundantly clear the family are well respected within their community.

Terry and I would like to thank both the Bartons and the Dabrowskis for giving us the time and the opportunity to visit them.

The regional meeting at night was held at Howe Bridge Crematorium. Lindsay and Jason from the crematorium looked after our members, providing plenty of refreshments and a lovely buffet.

I was particularly delighted to find our members in the north west do not need much encouragement when asking questions and I think (and hope) both Terry and I answered as many as we could. I would encourage members to attend regional meetings as it gives you the opportunity to ask any question you wish; nothing is off limits. I was also impressed and really encouraged to see so many young people in attendance – after all, they are our future generation and their opinions and thoughts are worth listening to.

At all the regional meetings so far, we have held a small raffle to raise funds towards my nominated charity Winston’s Wish. I ask a question which is usually around the miles I travel, and the nearest person will receive a prize. Every penny of the money raised goes to Winston’s Wish and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed so far.

If you feel you can donate a couple of pounds, please do. Winston’s Wish is a very worthwhile charity which helps to provide bereavement support for children and young adults. They support around 40,000 young adults and children annually. You can imagine this number will obviously have grown over the last 18 months very sadly, so please donate if you can.

I would also like to invite all our members to the AGM weekend being held at the Dalmahoy Country Club in Edinburgh. We start on Thursday, March 17, 2022 with our annual Golf Tournament, followed by Scottish SAIF who will hold their AGM with a new Scottish President being installed, followed by a little bit of entertainment celebrating St Patrick’s Day. Get the date in your diary now: March 17 to Sunday, March 20!

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