MoJ reveals 15 closed courts remain unsold
The Ministry of Justice has yet to dispose of 15 closed courts from a previous reform programme – even as it prepares for another round of closures.
An announcement on the fate of 91 courts and tribunals across England and Wales is expected within weeks, as the government seeks to reduce costs and sell off underused sites.
But a parliamentary answer has revealed several sites shut down by a previous round of closures under the coalition government are still in limbo and are costing thousands of pounds to maintain.
Court buildings are still unsold in: Abergavenny, Alton, Bracknell, Cirencester, Coleford, Keighley, Knutsford, Liverpool, Lyndhurst, Oswestry, Pontefract, Stourbridge, Spalding, Totnes and Towcester.
In total, they are costing at least £40,000 a month to secure and maintain, with figures not available for three sites. The most expensive upkeep is the former Alton Magistrates' Court, which is costing almost £10,000 a month.
The MoJ said as of December 2015, 80 courts closed under the court estate reform programme have been sold attracting disposal receipts of £49.6m.
Its response added that the disposal of surplus property assets is dependent on a number of factors, such as the market, potential future use, location and the fact that some are occupied in part by the police and local authorities which also make disposal difficult.
Nine of the closed court buildings which have not been disposed of are either under offer or on the market.
Of those which have not yet been brought to the market, two court buildings have shared locations with the police, which means the future of the building is tied in with the police station, one has a site contamination issue and the other three were closed only within the last seven months.
‘We are working on bringing all of them to the market as soon as possible,’ added the MoJ.
Shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter, who asked the original question, said: ‘The public will be dismayed to learn that the government are blowing nearly half-a-million pounds per year to keep several courts empty and mothballed. Michael Gove must ensure that he gets a grip on this ongoing waste of public money.’
The Law Society has been among the organisations urging the government to rethink its plans, and has said there is a case to save 59 courts across the country.