A GRIEVING family was banned from commemorating their dead mother on her late husband’s tombstone at Canley Crematorium – because of a grave records mix-up by council officials.
Labour leaders at Coventry City Council launched an investigation after council staff warned other families could suffer from the same mistakes due to staffing problems.
A brother and sister in their 50s were told they could not engrave their mother’s name or loving words on their father’s headstone after she passed away earlier this year.
They were shocked and distressed to be told by council officials their family’s grave plot at Canley Crematorium was recorded as belonging to another person of the same surname.
Only after months of investigation following their mother’s cremation did the council’s bereavement services department admit an error in its search of graveyard records.
Disturbingly, a council official, in apologising for the error, said the same mistake could not be ruled out in future because of staffing problems.
Labour council leaders triggered an investigation yesterday after being contacted by the Telegraph.
Councillor Lindsley Harvard, city services cabinet member, sought to reassure other Coventry families everything possible would be done to prevent it happening again.
The mix-up was resolved after an investigation by Coun Bally Singh (Lab, Whoberley) on behalf of the bereaved family who live in his ward.
He said: “It caused grief and heartbreak for both families, including the other family who had been wrongly identified as owning the grave plot.
“I tracked them down to an address in Rugby using Land Registry records, as the council was not able to help me because of data protection issues.
“When I informed the council of my investigations, they quickly searched their records and acknowledged an error had been made.
“It was blamed on an inexperienced member of staff who was covering for illness. Worryingly, I’ve been told that this type of error could happen again because of the continued absence levels.
“I have requested that all members of staff receive adequate training to prevent this happening again.
“The family do not want other families to suffer what they had to go through.”
An email sent on December 12 from the bereavement department to Coun Singh, seen by the Telegraph, states the covering staff temp had not asked for more information from the family’s stonemason who had applied for a permit, which would have helped to correctly identify the plot’s owner.
It continues: “My worry is that due to the continued extended absence we are currently experiencing this type of error may occur again.”
Coun Singh said it had turned out two grave plots at Canley Crematorium belonged to families with the same surname.
Coun Harvard said the member of staff had not checked the pre-1994 paper records, which in this case had not been stored on the computer system.
He said: “I’ve asked staff to automatically cross-check paper and computer records when there are discrepancies. Measures have been put in place to ensure similar problems cannot occur again.”
He denied low staffing or inadquate staff training was the cause, saying it was an “administrative” error.