Courts axed to save cash; MIDLAND BUILDINGS 'SURPLUS TO CAPACITY' - BUT JOBS WILL BE SAFE, CLAIMS MP.
Byline: NICK MCCARTHY Crime Correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org @Brum_Mail_Crime
FIVE courts will be closed down in the West Midlands as part of a government push to save cash.
Birmingham Youth Court, Solihull Magistrates and Sandwell Magistrates are all closing down along with eight other Magistrate buildings in the Midlands region.
Justice Secretary Michael Gove identified the buildings as "surplus capacity" as part of a raft of planned closures last July.
He earmarked 57 magistrates' courts, 19 county courts, two crown courts, four tribunal hearing centres and nine combined courts for closure across the country.
The government says the closures will save the taxpayer PS27m every year and will allow the reinvestment of PS40m into the justice system.
Solihull's Tory MP Julian Knight said he had been assured by government colleagues that his constituents would still have "good access" to legal services and that there would be no job losses.
He added: "When the proposal to close Solihull Magistrates' Court was first discussed, I met with the relevant Minister about what impact this would have. I asked the Minister to ensure that adequate service levels are provided at Birmingham Magistrates' Court to cope with the additional hearings it will receive as a result of the closure. I also raised with him the idea of pop-up courts in Solihull for certain types of cases and tribunals in places such as hotel function rooms, and at the Council House, and this is something he is investigating further. "Throughout this process I have been assured that there will be no job losses and that Solihull residents still have good access to legal services, and today's announcement does not change that.
"The sale of the Solihull site will raise PS2 million, and will allow for a redevelopment which I hope will, in turn, be able to provide Solihull with even more jobs and greater prospects."
A consultation on the plans received 2,100 responses, along with 13 petitions containing more than 10,000 signatures.
As a result of the consultation the government decided to save five of the 91 buildings under threat, meaning 86 will now be closed.
Twenty-two of the 86 buildings will move to "suitable alternative venues" like local civic buildings.
Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said: "Maintaining our underused and dilapidated court buildings costs PS500 million a year but some courts sit for less than half the time available. This is simply unsustainable."
MIDLAND CLOSURES | Birmingham Youth Court | Burton-upon-Trent Magistrates' Court | Sandwell Magistrates' Court | Solihull Magistrates' Court | Stafford Magistrates' Court
Julian Knight MP
Solihull Magistrates' Court, left, and Sandwell Magistrates' Court