A family had to watch their deceased loved one be buried in the wrong plot in a Northampton cemetery because the hole had been dug in the wrong place, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
The distressing incident has been revealed in an FoI request put in to Northampton Borough Council by Northampton South MP David Mackintosh.
“If true this is a serious mess. Please can you have this urgently addressed with Amey.”
The former council leader had requested copies of all emails, dating back to October 2015, in which either the council chief executive David Kennedy, council leader Mary Markham, or its head of communications, referred to him.
One particular email, seen by the Chronicle & Echo, from Mr Mackintosh to Mr Kennedy on May 16, points to an incident in which environmental services contractor Enterprise (part of the Amey group) appears to have dug the wrong plot for a burial at Kingsthorpe Cemetery.
Mr Mackintosh also claims the family was told they would not be compensated for the distressing blunder if they went to the media.
The email reads: “The funeral in question took place on May 10, 2016, at Kingsthorpe Cemetery, Northampton.
“I understand when the family arrived, the wrong plot had been prepared as to what had previously been discussed and agreed.
It goes on to say: “I would be grateful if this were looked into as it would be useful to know what Amey’s position on the matter is.
“I understand that the burial was delayed for a considerable time while this was looked at and Amey have made an offer of waiving the burial fee as long as they agree not to inform the media which has horrified the family.
“The deceased was unfortunately buried in a different plot than the one envisaged and they are understandably very distressed.”
Later correspondence from the Guildhall on May 24 showed that Amey agreed to apologise to the family and waive the interment and burial plot fees - as well as pay the cost of the funeral.
Council chief executive David Kennedy forwarded the email to officers in the environmental services team.
In doing so, he wrote: “If true this is a serious mess. Please can you have this urgently addressed with Amey.”
Back in October last year, two gravediggers working for Amey claimed as part of an employment tribunal they had been asked to dig the wrong plots for grieving families on more than one occasion.
During a three-day hearing in Bedford both men said they had been called on to dig up the grave so land could be sold as a fresh burial plot.
The men also claimed they had been given unreasonable deadlines to dig plots prior to funeral corteges arriving and were bullied. One claimant alleged he had to take payment from a grieving widow during her late husband’s funeral.
But both Amey and the presiding judge Michael Ord dismissed the claims due to a lack of evidence.
Last month, the borough council launched a consultation about its environmental services in which it intends to interview 1,000 members of the public.
Labour group leader, Councillor Danielle Stone, (Lab, Castle), said: “This is an appalling story and the family must have been very distressed.
“Funerals are a difficult time and for this to happen as well for a family is a catastrophe.
“This environmental services contract has been a failure and this is another example of that.
“The allegation that the contractor tried to cover this up by urging them not to go to the media is also shocking.
“Thankfully it seems both the previous leader of the council and the chief executive understood the seriousness of the situation quickly.
“Nevertheless these stories make us question the current management of our cemeteries.”
A Northampton Borough Council spokesperson said: “This was an isolated incident and was dealt with direct with the family at the time.
“We visited the family to express our condolences and understand that they received an apology from Enterprise for the error. We also understand that the burial fees were waived and the costs of the funeral were paid.”