Category Archives: Co-op

Burgundy stays Burgundy, Lilac becomes Turquoise

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Telegraph & Dignity

In Burgundy coloured news 

The Telegraph has been hard at work this month, convincing us that the funeral situation in the UK really is dire.

On the 10th June, we heard about a grieving gentlemen in New Milton, Hants, who is digging a grave in his back garden to bury his 101 year old mother, unwilling to pay ‘the outrageous cost of a funeral’.  According to the article, the resourceful John Wright is even considering purchasing a large fridge to avoid the cost of keeping his mother in the local mortuary.

The article claims that a local funeral director (as yet unnamed) quoted £2500 just to take Mr Wright’s mother’s body to the church in a hearse.

Anyone concerned about this sorry state of affairs and wondering whether they’ll also need to find the space for a large fridge in their garage, need not have worried.  The Telegraph had it all in hand.

On the 13th June, another article appeared in The Telegraph, this time comparing funeral costs and an analysis of available life insurance policies and funeral plans, suggesting that nothing on the market truly covers the cost of a funeral.

Both articles ended with an endorsement for The Telegraph’s own funeral plan, in partnership with the burgundy coloured funeral group, Dignity PLC.  As well as a generous £50 discount for all Telegraph readers and a link to a glossy sales website with further hysteria about the cost of funerals and how it’s only going to get worse.  Much much worse.

How about an unbiased report into funeral costs, not funded by anyone with a financial interest in selling funeral plans?   Or non-hysterical media coverage of the cost of a funeral with no sales agenda?  Or a realistic review of the many viable affordable alternatives that aren’t package deals out there?

Anyone out there? Anywhere?

Cooperative Funeralcare

The once lilac Cooperative Funeralcare has undergone a rebrand and become turquoise

In lilac coloured news

Following the sale of its five crematoria to our burgundy coloured acquaintances Dignity Plc for £43m, the lilac coloured Co-Op freed up lots of cash to spend on a comprehensive rebrand of its businesses, also promising to invest in improving funeral parlours under its Funeralcare brand.

The group has already returned to its classic clover-leaf logo, which first appeared in the late 1960s.  The aim was to be reassuringly retro, harping back to the good old days of shops, produce and dividend stamps, before the days of controversial CEOs with massive pay packages sullied the Co-Op name.

As part of the rebrand, the shade of lilac that characterised Co-Op’s British High Street funeral chain, Funeralcare, is no more, replaced by a calmly reassuring turquoise.  Personally I was hoping for a garish shade of parakeet green, not dissimilar to the Queen’s birthday outfit.

The updated Funeralcare website is already live and rumour has it that the first funeral home to be refurbished with the new branding has been completed in Scotland.   We don’t yet know whether funeral directors will be issued with turquoise cravats, but we’d very much like to find out.

Whether the re-brand is anything other than a lick of paint and a wardrobe change remains to be seen.  In the meantime, turquoise is the new lilac is the new black.

The only way is Ethics?

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Screenshot 2013-11-23 at 17

The Co-operative — What Makes Us Different


“I sometimes wonder if the greatest institutional problem of our time is not plain, unvarnished evil, but this obsession with Ethics as an outward form, with compliance rather than conscience. The whole idea of an Ethical business, as distinct from a normal one which behaves ethically, is flawed. Today, business after business, organisation after organisation, babbles about corporate responsibility, transparency, openness, saving the planet etc. Like executive versions of the Pharisees, they proclaim, “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are.” Later, expensively, we discover that they are as other men are, or even a bit worse; and for some reason we are surprised.”

Charles Moore here

Funeral Flowers

Thursday, 21 November 2013



Posted by Richard Rawlinson

Paul Flowers was a successful man: chairman of Co-operative Bank, Labour councillor and Methodist minister. He’s now shunned by all three pillars of the establishment—business, politics and church—after his penchant for taking crystal meth with male prostitutes hit the headlines.

When Flowers first hooked up with Manchester Lads escort Ciaron Dodd, he took him to see the play, You Can’t Take It With You, at Manchester’s Royal Exchange theatre. This was, of course, followed by sex and drugs back at the hotel.

You can’t take it with you. This is certainly true of a fat cat salary. But you can spend your earnings in plenty of ways that don’t stop you taking your reputation with you.

We’ve all met characters like Flowers: high-achievers and do-gooders who also live dangerously by indulging their less reputable side; risk-takers who want to have their cake and eat it.

We often feel some satisfaction when such human juggernauts are stopped in their tracks, when those made ebullient by deference to their status are brought down to earth when they’re given a dose of humble pie after their flaws are exposed.

Flowers may become a better man as a result of his downfall. He’s deemed a useless banker due to his involvement in the Co-operative Bank, whose massive debts may yet result in the selling of Co-operative Funeralcare. He’s also deemed a hypocritical sleazeball due to private decadence in relation to his socio-political and religious roles in the community.

How would a funeral celebrant deal with such a eulogy challenge?


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Why the shambles at the Co-op is so serious

Wednesday, 20 November 2013



One version of the “better” that mutuals have to be is that they have to be seen by customers to be more “decent” than other businesses – because that provides a motive for some consumers to spend their money with them.

And the second version of the better is that they have to be conspicuously competent.

It won’t have escaped your notice that the appointment as Co-op Bank’s chairman of a former local councillor with an apparent taste for hard drugs, a history of downloading porn on to a municipally owned computer and – by his own admission – limited knowledge of modern banking, somewhat undermines Co-op’s claims to be better than the rest in both those important senses.

Which is why Co-op Group’s review of its internal democratic system, that allowed the Rev Flowers to bloom quite so lustrously in the organisation, will have an important bearing on whether co-ops and mutuals will continue to be an important part of the UK’s mixed economy.

Robert Peston


In 2007 The Co-operative Board de-recognised GMB after more than 100 years, terminating a relationship that went back to the 19th Century Victorian era. This was a sad day for democracy, Trade Union rights and ethics given the background of The Co-operative movement, a group owned by its members which claims to be ‘Different.’

The Co-operative then found itself ostracised form the wider TUC movement … banned from TUC and Labour Party Conferences, Tolpuddle Martyrs festival, Workers Beer events, Wortley Hall and a whole host of other events and activities where they had been previously welcomed.

Statement from the GMB union



This is how it’s supposed to be

Sunday, 15 July 2012

From the website of the Federation of Funeral Cooperatives of Québec:

Cooperative funeral homes have proven a highly successful model in Canada, and especially Quebec. The cooperative movement is growing, with 9,600 deaths treated by funeral cooperatives in 2011 in Canada, up more than 5 percent from 2010.

The Fédération des Coopératives Funéraires du Québec (Federation of Funeral Cooperatives of Québec) is the umbrella structure for all funeral cooperatives in Quebec. Founded in 1987, it has grown to include 35 member cooperatives, 23 across the province, 10 in other provinces in Canada plus funeral cooperatives in Lima in Peru and Seattle in the United States.

Collectively owned by over 170,000 members in Quebec, the cooperatives operate within communities, for communities, following a philosophy of meeting the needs of bereaved families, whatever their budget, taking a humane approach and respecting values of solidarity, mutual assistance and integrity. The cooperatives offer many advantages to consumers, not least of which is their lower costs: the average cost of a funeral in Canada in 2004 was CAD$6,325, while the average cost of a cooperative funeral was $3,677.


ED’S NOTE: There’s a big international summit of funeral co-operatives in Quebec in October this year which we’d love to attend but can’t because we’re skint.  We’ve heard good things about Canada’s funeral co-ops. We know that our friend Josh Slocum of the US Funeral Consumers Alliance will be there, so we hope he’ll tell us all about it.



Thursday, 28 June 2012

I expect there will be a number of stories like this. This one’s from this is Gloucestershire and is about Glad Stockdale’s experience of a Midcounties Co-op funeral, which all came back to her when she watched Undercover Undertaker, of which this is Gloucestershire writes:

The programme showed bodies piled up in a warehouse, instead of being kept in a chapel of rest and bungling funeral directors sending the wrong body to a funeral.


The last straw came when the family went to see Mrs Stockdale the day before her funeral. A plastic bag containing the underwear and clothes she had been wearing had been dumped in the coffin. The trolley she had been wheeled in on lay nearby.

After several complaints, Mid-Counties Co-Op gave them compensation of £500 to pay for a wake and a trip to scatter her ashes.

A Midcounties Co-operative Funeralcare spokesman said: “Midcounties Co-operative Funeralcare, which is not connected to Co-operative Funeralcare as run by the Co-operative Group and referred to in the programme, operates to the highest standards of professional care. Our staff are fully trained and qualified. We are members of the National Association of Funeral Directors and adhere to its exacting standards and code of conduct as a minimum.”

Well, that’s interesting. I could have sworn Midcounties had rebranded under Co-operative Funeralcare. What do you make of this screenshot of their website?




Monday, 30 January 2012

David Durden



On July 21 2011 Sonny, the stillborn baby of Sandra and Sai Lao, was cremated. The Laos were distraught when they were told. They denied having signed the cremation forms. Co-op funeral director David Durden said no, they had, claiming they were so distressed they must have forgotten. Durden was taken to court, found guilty, fined £400, and ordered to pay £15 victim surcharge and £350 court costs. Durden appealed against the sentence. 

When all this was happening, Mrs Lao contacted us. We publicised the case here and here

On 14 January 2012 Durden lost his appeal.  “Judge Cotter said it was “inconceivable” that Mrs Lao or her husband Sai Lao had mis-remembered the incident in Durden’s office at Co-operative Funeral Services in Crownhill.”


Hat tip to Teresa Evans for this.


Co-operatives co-operate — up to a point

Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Rochdale Pioneers


Posted by Charles


If any group of people in a local community wished to establish a funeral service inspired and informed by the principles and ideals of co-operativism, what would their position be with regard to the sixth Rochdale Principle if they found themselves in the circumstance of potentially competing with an established co-op funeral home belonging either to Co-operative Funeralcare or to an independent regional co-operative society? 

6th Principle: Co-operation Among Co-operatives

Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the Co-operative Movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

First, a little history. According to a Monopolies and Mergers Commission report dated, I think, 1986, this was the position until midway through the twentieth century:

Each [co-operative] retail society … was formed by local people to serve the interests of their locality and consequently each of them was rooted in and traded in the community from which it originally sprang. Until 1960 boundary agreements existed between individual retail societies which, in effect, restricted them to trading within their particular recognised trading areas. The Co-operative Union, formed in 1869 to establish and organise Co-operative societies, acted as an  ‘arbiter’, according to its rules, in ‘boundary’ disputes between societies. 

In terms of the sixth principle, this makes perfect sense: co-operatives co-operate, therefore they do not compete against each other. 

All this came to an end with the passage of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1956: 

The Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1956 was aimed at preventing traders from entering into anti-competitive arrangements against the public interest. 

At first there was no change: 

Following the passage of the Act, some 200 such ‘boundary’ agreements between Co-operative societies were registered under the Act. 

But in 1960 these boundary agreements were found to be illegal: 

In 1960 the Restrictive Practices Court adjudicated on a boundary agreement between the adjacentDoncasterand Retford Co-operative Societies and declared that the agreement had not overcome the burden of demonstrating that it was in the public interest and that the relevant restrictions on trading outside their respective areas were void. Societies were subsequently advised by the Co-operative Union to terminate any boundary agreements to which they were parties. 

This is why, in case you ever wondered, Funeralcare competes with the funeral businesses of our last remaining independent regional co-ops. 

The Co-operative Funeralcare also has a peculiar habit of advertising the funeral homes of those societies it competes with. It’s been at it for a while. Back in 1986 the Competition Commission noted: 

CWS [Co-operative Wholesale Society, now The Co-operative Group] advertises in newspapers local toClydebank(eg the Glasgow Guardian and Milngavie and Bearsden Herald). CWS also told us that a ‘combined advert’ under which Clydebank was listed as a ‘branch’ of CWS was placed by CWS, without reference to senior management, in the Glasgow Yellow Pages as a favour toClydebank, as that Society could not afford to advertise separately. 

Funeralcare persists  in this eccentric practice, listing, for example, four out of eight Scotmid funeral homes here

We asked Scotmid if they knew about this. They didn’t. We asked if they knew why Funeralcare was doing this. They didn’t. We asked why only four out of eight funeral homes were advertised. They had no idea. 

For anyone out there wanting to establish their own funeral co-op, the way is clear. Go for it. You may even get some free advertising from the mother ship.


Monopolies and Mergers Commission report here


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