“Elephant in the room”: Coroner merger delays exasperate council bosses

Councillors have hit out at government delays to a merger between Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire Coroners services, amid calls to "exert more pressure" on government bosses. Paul Smith, the acting senior coroner for both Lincolnshire County Council and North Lincolnshire County Council told a the Public Protection Committee at LCC on Tuesday that the service continued to face significant impact following the COVID pandemic. Mr Smith has been in his post as acting senior coroner for three years without the full-time help of a second coroner, he has also taken on responsibilities in North Lincolnshire after that authority's senior coroner stepped down.

He told the committee that the merger was  "absolutely the correct decision", however said the extended time limit of it held a "danger of impacting on the quality of services in both areas".

He added that delays to the proposed merger of services had been "the elephant in the room for too long, as far as the services are concerned." "The longer that continues, the greater the risk that the absence of a second coroner will impact on the quality of services in this area," he told councillors. Councillor Jackie Brockway said she had "considerable concerns" over the delay.

"It is very difficult for anybody to get their feet properly under the table when the word temporary is attached to their post and when it's something as senior as this, I think the impact on the community is too great," she said. She called on the committee to exert more pressure on the Chief Coroner for England and Wales who is overseeing the process. However, Councillor Sue Woolley, portfolio holder for coroners at LCC, said the authority had already done everything it could.

"I am as frustrated as everybody else. The decision is out of our hands, we've done absolutely everything that's been asked of us and and yet we're still no further forward," she said. She said bosses were getting updates on a "very, very regular basis" and added: "We're literally at the point of virtually camping on the doorstep to prompt them to make a decision.

"We just want to get on with both North and North East Lincolnshire and have a system in place that works for everybody.

At the back of all of this are the bereaved families and I think that they're the ones that are probably suffering more than we are."