The head of the courts service has promised that action is being taken to maintain the estate as it struggles to counter recent bad weather.
This month has seen reports of cells closed for being too cold at Snaresbrook Crown Court, lifts out of order at Maidstone Crown Court and heating systems breaking at Isleworth Crown Court.
Many of the breakdowns were fixed quickly, but the problems have prompted HM Courts & Tribunals Service chief executive Susan Acland-Hood to make a public pledge that issues are being addressed across the estate.
Writing in her regular blog, Acland-Hood said HMCTS is doing everything it can with the resources available to make short-term and longer lasting changes. She acknowledged the recent snow and freezing temperatures had created extra challenges and put existing ones into sharp relief, but insisted work is happening to improve the situation.
Acland-Hood revealed that the capital maintenance budget, set at around £35m a year, is currently being spent on projects to replace 23 boilers, 15 roofs and 33 lifts, with more work planned for next year.
A one-off £5m fund, which must be spent by the end of this month, is also helping toward small ‘fixes’ designed to help everyday lift in courts and tribunals. The fund is paying for 300 projects at nearly 250 sites, ranging from new carpets and chairs in waiting rooms to refurbished receptions, plastering and painting, and mending broken fixtures and fittings.
Acland-Hood said: ‘We are also investing in a comprehensive survey of the estate that will allow us to do more and better planned and proactive maintenance, so that we have fewer problems arising that need fixing. We’ll still have to make some hard choices about resources; but I am confident that the combination of ongoing maintenance, quick fixes, dedicated local teams and a cohesive longer-term estates strategy will make steady and incremental improvements to our courts and tribunals.’