TWO Coroner services could merge as part of a plan to save £230,000 a year.

A merger between the Teesside and Hartlepool Coroner's areas is set to move a step closer next week as it is debated at a meeting of Middlesbrough Council's executive.

As part of a modernisation programme the Lord Chancellor has asked that Middlesbrough should work with Cleveland Police and other authorities in drawing up a business case for the merger.

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A merger would be in line with guidance from the Chief Coroner, saving about 20 per cent in costs.

The move follows the retirement of former Teesside Coroner Michael Sheffield at the end of April and the appointment of solicitor Clare Bailey as Acting Teesside Coroner, with Hartlepool Senior Coroner Malcolm Donnelly undertaking the Assistant Coroner role.

Mr Sheffield came under fire during his time as Coroner for a backlog of inquests which saw bereaved families sometimes having to wait years for an inquest to be concluded. However, the backlog is now being cleared.

Middlesbrough deputy mayor Dave Budd said: “There is now a clear case for a merger between the Teesside and Hartlepool areas to ensure that process of modernisation and improvement continues."

A detailed business case for the proposed merger will now be submitted to the Lord Chancellor who is expected to make a decision by December.