The closure of around 140 court buildings since 2010 has yet to cut the government’s annual spend on court security, the Gazette can reveal.
Answers to freedom of information requests show that the £30m-a-year bill for security officers has remained flat since 2011 – and is unlikely to fall in the year ahead.
Of the 142 buildings earmarked for closure by HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) in December 2010, only one – Rhyl County Court – remains open and will close in April. However the Ministry of Justice has yet to sell 44 vacated buildings and is spending an average of £202,000 a month maintaining unsold sites.
A spokeswoman for HMCTS said that in addition to the continuing need for security services at closed court buildings, the £30m spend takes into account annual wage increases and contractual changes.
In February 2012 HMCTS signed a deal with security provider G4S to take over part of the contract from the previous provider MITIE.
In 2012/13 HMCTS spent £17.3m with MITIE and £12.8m with G4S, compared with £28.2m and £2.1m with the suppliers respectively in 2011/12, according to a freedom of information response.
The total appears unlikely to fall significantly in 2013/14, with nearly £18m already spent on court security officers for the months of April-November 2013.
The unchanged spend is also accounted for by an increased need for security at courts to which work has transferred, and the extra costs of providing security in tribunal venues, said the spokeswoman. HMCTS became responsible for tribunals in England and Wales and non-devolved tribunals in Scotland in April 2011.
Some 878 court security officer posts were designated across HMCTS from February 2012 to date, compared with 755 between 2009-2012. However, HMCTS said this did not represent an increase in the number working in courts at any one time.