Court users will see improved conditions and security once new services contracts worth a combined £1.1bn begin, the government announced today.
From 1 April ENGIE, an energy and services company, will be responsible for facilities management and pest control. OCS, which described itself as a 'progressive family business', will provide security.
At present court facility and security management contracts are split between the north and south. Mitie provides facilities management and security in the south. G4S covers the north.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service says nationwide contracts for the two services will ensure consistency across the estate.
Under the new arrangements, HMCTS says facilities management will focus more on the people who use courts and tribunals, with new objectives based on their experiences. This includes quicker response times for repair and improvement works. Suppliers who fail to carry out work to an adequate standard will be penalised. Security staff will be provided with increased training on how to work with the public and professionals, and there will be a greater focus on 'search-on' entry.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson told the Gazette that everyone will have tailored key performance indicators, which will be monitored through audits and inspections. Penalties for poor performance will be based on targets. For instance, failure to meet response times or poor customer satisfaction could lead to a 'monetary deduction' from the provider.
The contracts cover 330 buildings. The process for transferring more than 2,000 staff to the new suppliers is underway. The Gazette was told that there no redundancies are involved.
Justice minister Chris Philp said: 'These new contracts will modernise and enhance the experience of all those using our courts and tribunals, delivering more user-friendly services. Our justice system is one of the most advanced in the world and this government is committed to ensuring it stays that way.'
Lawyers have been quick to inform HMCTS about poor standards and service, often tweeting about poor working conditions and items that have been confiscated during security searches.
Last year the House of Commons justice select committee said it was 'wholly unreasonable' to expect judicial office-holders, HMCTS staff and external court users 'to put up with dilapidated and uncomfortable court buildings'.