PCS says plans to close 9 more courts announced today are a further hammer blow to access to justice and will mean staff and the public travelling further, in more difficult circumstances at greater cost.
The government has opened a 10-week consultation on its plans which will displace more than 130 staff and propose the closure of:
- Banbury county court and magistrates’ court
- Blackfriars Crown Court
- Cambridge Magistrates’ Court
- Chorley Magistrates’ Court
- Fleetwood Magistrates’ Court
- Maidenhead Magistrates’ Court
- Northallerton Magistrates’ Court
- Wandsworth County Court.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This announcement is yet another hammer blow to local justice from a Tory government with a sorry record of closing 38.5% of courts and tribunals since 2010.
“We do not accept that closing any of these courts would improve the quality of the service the Ministry of Justice provides. We do not accept that the changes that HM Court and Tribunals Service is making and envisage for the future are about improving the justice system or access to justice.
“The new justice secretary should order a review into the court closure programme and halt any further closures pending full discussions with the unions.”
We believe the watchwords of efficiency and flexibility used by the department are euphemisms for cuts to a public service which is already creaking under unrelenting pressure and chronic underfunding and is largely reliant on the goodwill and professionalism of our members. Indeed HMCTS concedes it is doing this to ‘release funding.’ We believe this is the primary reason for the proposals.
We believe HMCTS has been intending to close these courts for some time and that work has been moved or proposed for removal to facilitate closure. Indeed this is referred to in the consultation in relation to Blackfriars Crown Court.
We believe these closures will result in delays to cases being heard. It is even more alarming that HMCTS has also launched a 10-week public consultation on the main strategic principles when considering future closures.
Impact on staff
These proposals come at a time when staff morale has been damaged by previous closures, job cuts, pay restraint, an attendance management process that we maintain is discriminatory and privatisation threats. But these proposals have no consideration for the impact on staff with no mention of impact assessments.
PCS will be responding to these proposals following consultation with our members.