Labour could sell judges’ lodgings

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Published: Monday 26th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Labour could sell off properties including luxury penthouse flats and Georgian townhouses used by senior judges and instead force them to use cheaper hotels as part of a drive to save £70 million a year from the courts budget.

The party estimates it could raise £26.3 million from the sale of the publicly-owned lodgings which are provided for judges during lengthy trials across England and Wales.

An estimated £2.9 million a year will be saved by ending the use of the 15 properties and putting members of the judiciary up in hotels at lower cost instead.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said judges should be “sharing some of the pain” of austerity measures.

The lodgings could be sold following a value for money review and t he party also hopes to raised £23.6 million from property sales as part of a drive to locate two-thirds of single use magistrates’ courts and county courts on common sites.

The money from asset sales would be used to pay down the national debt.

Around £67 million a year could be raised by improving the collection of fines, with savings from the disposal of the judges’ lodgings invested on enforcement staffing.

Some £5 million a year in running costs could be saved under the plan to co-locate magistrates’ courts and county courts.

The measures follow Labour’s zero-based review of Ministry of Justice spending, which the Opposition claims also uncovered examples of waste by the Government.

Some £51 million has been handed out in redundancy payments to prison officers before a staff shortage led to many of them being re-hired, the party said.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie said: “David Cameron’s government is set to break its promise to balance the books and get the national debt falling.

“The next Labour government will get the deficit and debt down, but we will do so in a fairer way and by examining every pound of spending.

“At this interim stage, Labour’s zero-based review has identified over £70 million of annual savings in the courts budget, as we cut departmental spending in the next parliament in order to get the deficit down.

“And we will look at whether taxpayers would be better served by selling off the penthouse flats and Georgian townhouses, which are owned and maintained by the state for the exclusive use of High Court judges, and the proceeds used to help pay down the national debt.

“The abysmal record of ministers allowing so many criminal penalties to go uncollected isn’t just bad for justice – it’s bad for our public finances too. A credible strategy to restore fine enforcement levels is long overdue.”

Mr Khan said: “This document shows that Labour is taking tough decisions when it comes to finding savings in the justice budget.

“However, instead of the haphazard way the current government has managed the Ministry of Justice and its budget, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake and severely curtailing access to justice, Labour’s approach will be fairer.

“In these challenging financial times, we need to keep a firm grip on the purse strings, and that means taking a long hard look at the way we run our courts.

“If we’re to maintain the standards for which we’re renowned the world over, it’s only fair we look at using our court buildings more efficiently, judges sharing some of the pain, and addressing the failings in fine enforcement.”

Published: Monday 26th January 2015 by The News Editor

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