South Lincolnshire coroner's office set for merger

Fears that families in South Holland could have to travel to Lincoln for inquests into their loved ones' deaths have been denied by council officials.

South Lincolnshire senior coroner Professor Robert Forrest who steps down on April 1.

A report called The Future Shape of the Coroner Service is recommending that South Lincolnshire Coroner’s Office, which covers Spalding, Long Sutton, Bourne and Boston, should merge with the Central Lincolnshire area.

This would see a full-time coroner, supported by part-time assistant coroners, covering inquests in relation to sudden, violent or unnatural deaths for people from areas as far as Gainsborough, Skegness, Grantham and Stamford.

Lincolnshire County Council cabinet members are due to consider the report, which claims the merger would shave at least £50,000 off the current £313,000 cost of inquest services countywide, on April 5.

The report said: “The county council has a statutory responsibility to provide a coroner’s service for Lincolnshire (but) the financial challenge facing the council has precipitated a review of the coroner’s service with respect to coronial geographical areas (central and south Lincolnshire).

“The tender of the south Lincolnshire senior coroner’s resignation has resulted in a more immediate requirement to revisit the options.”

Professor Robert Forrest resigned as senior coroner for south Lincolnshire last December and leaves office next Friday amid concerns over “administrative capacity” which first emerged when coroner’s areas in the county went down from four to two in 2012.

At the time when Professor Forrest’s resignation was made public just before Christmas, Liz Morgan from Lincolnshire County Council’s public health department said: “We can confirm that Professor Forrest has tendered his resignation and we are working hard to identify an acting senior coroner as an interim measure.

“We have offered Professor Forrest additional administrative capacity, at his request, and are actively pursuing changes across the service to further improve the way both coroners are supported.”

However, the report said: “The move to a single coroner area and office does not mean that relatives will have to travel to Lincoln for an inquest (which) can continue to be held across the county, including Boston and Spilsby, as they are currently.”