DEVON'S two coroners’ offices could merge as part of a nationwide push to streamline the service, the Local Democracy Reporter service writes.

The county is overseen by the Exeter and Greater Devon coroners’ service, and a separate one for Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon.

However, the retirement of the senior coroner for Plymouth in March prompted the Ministry of Justice to ask Devon to consider merging the two coroners to create a Devon-wide service.

Devon’s senior coroner has been covering the whole county since April.

The chief coroner has stated the number of coroner areas should be reduced to create “sensibly sized coroner areas,” taking into account the number of reported deaths, geographical size and types of coroner work in the area.

To merge areas, the local authority has to outline its business case to the chief coroner and the Ministry of Justice, with the latter then consulting relevant parties such as the local police force on the proposal.

The local authority can then make its application for a merger to the Lord Chancellor.

Devon County Council says the proposal would “ensure that the service to families will be more robust and consistent across the county".

Maria Price, director of legal and democratic services at Devon County Council, said the authority’s preferred option is to merge the service, but to retain both of the coroner’s courts in Exeter and Plymouth, with the latter helping to mitigate the need for families in the west of the county to travel long distances for inquests if it were closed.

She told a Devon County Council cabinet meeting that its costs would not increase in the change, which would see it become the lead local authority for Devon’s coroner’s service.

Any costs incurred due to taking on coronial work for Plymouth or Torbay would be recharged, she added.

Costs of coroners’ services include the provision of mortuaries, pathology services, forensic testing and inquests.

It is unclear when the change could take place as the assessment and consultation process is predicted to take up to six months.

The support of the county’s senior coroner and Devon and Cornwall Police in favour of the proposed merger suggests it will go ahead.