TAMWORTH Co-op has spoken out to reassure people that its funeral services are a 'million miles' from the disturbing images depicted in an undercover Channel 4 investigation.
Reporters secretly filmed Co-operative Funeralcare businesses in Middlesex and Hampshire where staff were portrayed as insensitive and money-grabbing. But the branches shown in the programme are part of the Manchester based Co-operative Group and have no links with the Tamworth Co-op which is independently owned and locally managed.
The programme showed funerals on an 'industrial scale' with bodies being stored in metal racks in a warehouse known in the trade as a 'hub.' Staff were also encouraged not to mention the cheapest funeral packages.
Julian Coles, chief executive of the Tamworth Co-op, says the disturbing picture painted in the documentary is a 'million miles' from its service.
"No such complaints have ever been levelled against us and I want to make it clear this documentary focused on businesses that have nothing to do with ours and operate very differently," he said.
"We are an entirely independent, comparatively small and traditional Co-operative, operating from several funeral premises in the area we serve.
"They come under our local control and are managed by our team of highly professional, dedicated and very caring individuals. It would be entirely wrong to associate anything in the documentary with us."
The Co-operative Group, the organisation filmed in the documentary, has indicated that it will be investigating fully the contents of the programme, and has placed a response on its website.
The Tamworth bereavement centre does share the same Co-operative Funeralcare branding as the Co-operative Group, although the actual funeral branch in Upper Gungate, Tamworth is not branded as Funeralcare. Mr Coles said: "I'm aware that people can gain the wrong impression from national branding.
"All areas of our business, including those with Funeralcare branding, are independent, local and caring. We do not send the deceased to large hubs prior to their funerals – they remain in our funeral homes.
He added: "The disturbing images in the programme are alien to us. As those who have used our services will know, we conduct the financial side of our business in a highly responsible manner. Our staff have never been told to conceal the most economical packages and they do not try to pass on false information."
Amanda Woodward, general manager of Tamworth Co-op's funeral division, was equally shocked by the documentary.
She said: "We receive many letters from people thanking us for the sensitivity and respect we have shown them.
"We also organise a service at St Editha's Church each year for bereaved families. That is the kind of thing we are known for – not the sort of behaviour highlighted in the documentary. We adhere to the National Association of Funeral Directors Code of Practice."