PCS is submitting written evidence to an inquiry into the Ministry of Justice’s court and tribunal reforms to the justice select committee.
The justice select committee is a cross-party committee of MPs appointed by the House of Commons to scrutinise the work of the Ministry of Justice and associated bodies.
PCS has repeatedly raised concerns about the impact on staff and access to justice, the plans to close many of the existing courts, the lessening of judicial oversight, reliance on digital solutions and a shift from local justice delivery to a small number of contact centres will have. In July, following an inquiry which PCS submitted evidence to, the public accounts committee released a damning report into HMCTS’s courts and tribunals reform £1.2 billion modernisation programme, including £30m spent on consultants, stating it had little confidence that it could deliver the programme successfully.
Some of the concerns raised in that report, for example over HMCTS’s failure to consult key stakeholders and the lack of evaluation of the impact of its reforms, form part of the justice select committee’s latest inquiry.
One of the main concerns we will be putting forward is the total lack of engagement HMCTS has had with its own workforce. We will be calling for proper consultation with staff and for an evaluation of what reforms have already taken place before any further court closures or reforms occur
We highlight that consultation has been so bad that PCS recently went into dispute over the employer’s failure to consult with staff about new court and tribunal service centres (CTSCs). This concerned the establishing or “stand up” of the first two CTSCs in Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent.
Our concerns included the employer advertising for roles in CTSCs without the necessary redundancy avoidance measures having first been agreed and existing staff being required to make a decision on their future before they were clear what all the options were available to them.
PCS maintains that the changes are being driven by cost cutting measures due to the unprecedented 40% Ministry of Justice budget reduction rather than any genuine desire to improve access to justice or improve the service provided. This accounts for why there has been no effective consultation or evaluation of changes made.
We are hopeful that by raising staff concerns with this influential group of MPs that Ministers will ensure that the employer properly consults with staff over the proposals.