The Ministry of Justice has spent more than half its allocated budget for court modernisation, the department confirmed today.

An update provided for the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee stated that by the end of 2018/19 the government will have spent £546m, achieving with benefits so far worth £158m.

The entire programme is expected to cost around £1bn, but the committee stated its concern last year that elements of it still required backing from the Treasury.

The latest funding package was approved to cover costs until the end of January, and formal submission of the business case for the next stage will take place next week.

The MoJ was heavily criticised by the committee last year for falling behind on the project, appearing not to understand the impact on court users, and still being unsure what it hoped to achieve.

Setting out a response to each of the committee’s recommendations today, the MoJ says it has ‘fully delivered’ on 20 of the 23 stages it planned to meet at this stage, including the creation of online divorce and probate, a new civil money claims online service, and new service centres in Birmingham and Stoke.

A test booking system for court listing officers has been partially completed, while the MoJ has yet to achieve a digital service for handling cases with the DVLA or a civil enforcement service, as had been pledged.

The government now aims to create an advisory panel by this spring, including academics and lawyers who have practical experience of the new-look justice system. Further research will be commissioned by the end of summer 2019, with an interim report on the programme by summer 2021.

The response states: ‘As the PAC acknowledged in its report, the courts and tribunals reform programme is hugely ambitious and is on a scale that has not been undertaken anywhere else. We do not underestimate the difficulty and degree of challenge that evaluating a programme of this scale and ambition will present.’