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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 July 2010

Stop the courts closures

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) announcement of an 'estate rationalisation consultation,' threatening the closure of 103 magistrates' courts and 54 county courts, commencing on 23 June until 15 September, comes as no surprise to MOJ workers.

Kevin Greenway, Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) national executive (NEC), personal capacity.

During October 2008 the Times carried a leaked story headlined "10,000 jobs to go and 100 courts to close in the Ministry of Justice". This was rubbished by ministry officials as a gross overstatement. The truth is out and it threatens to be far worse.

They claim 5% of staff are affected in the 157 courts, this suggests around 900-1,000 jobs are at risk. The MOJ also blithely claims that no redundancies will arise. This will be severely tested when this unprecedented exercise is linked with the wider cuts proposals. The reality is that compulsory redundancies are a real possibility into 2011-12.

PCS in the MOJ has been warning of these threats since 2008, together with presenting an analysis of what the future looks like for those workers who will remain after this and any other cull in the near future. It is a future of oppressive factory-like conditions with the ever present risk of privatisation.

Closing courts is no different to closing any other public asset like a library, a school or hospital. Local democratic access to courts must be defended. Centralisation means that the public, defendants, witnesses, families, in fact all court users will have to travel much further at greater cost. Many will choose not to attend court because of cost and many will be deterred from bringing cases because of cost and distance. These assets and the workers within them provide valuable services that are the very fabric of a civil society, something that we as socialists should fight to protect.

PCS members in the MOJ were to the front of the action to defend redundancy terms and will defend themselves against these attacks.

The PCS MOJ group executive has launched a campaign in opposition to the cuts and meets on 27 July to consider our industrial strategy, including industrial action, taking account of the wider picture affecting PCS members across the civil service.

  • Oppose the court closure programme.
  • Defend all public services.
  • For a major programme of investment in the justice sector and all public services.
  • Defend every job.
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