Chancellor George Osborne today imposed a further £142m of cuts on the Ministry of Justice, which will have to be implemented before the 2015 general election.
The MoJ is one of the government departments required by Osborne’s budget to reduce its spending by 1% for the next two years.
That will mean a reduction of £73m in 2013/14 and £69m in 2014/15, when the overall budget will be £6.8bn.
The justice budget has shrunk from around £9bn when the coalition came into power, with departmental efficiencies, staff cuts, court closures and £350m cuts to the legal aid budget accounting for much of the savings.
Osborne told MPs today: ‘We want to ensure departments have budgets that are more closely aligned to what they actually spend. So both next year and the year after, we will reduce resource departmental expenditure limits by the equivalent to a 1% reduction for most departments.’
The MoJ will tomorrow release more details of how it will implement the cuts, with criminal legal aid one area that could be targeted.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘By April 2013 I will have delivered per annum savings worth £1.3bn - rising to over £2.5bn by the end of 2014/15.
‘We'll have achieved this by transforming justice services across the country, including tightening up legal aid, closing under-used courts and reducing the costs of prisons and the probation service.
I am reviewing many of the department's policies and will look to identify further savings while ensuring justice is delivered, offenders are properly punished and victims of crime are given the support they need.’
The MoJ will consult next month on plans to introduce price-competitive tendering for providers offering criminal defence services from 2014. The plan will see firms bid against each other to provide the service for the cheapest rate.
It is anticipated that the proposal will also dramatically cut the number of criminal law firms and therefore reduce the cost of administering criminal legal aid, although the MoJ is not able to say how much it expects to save from the change.
The MoJ also refused to rule out further court closures.
A spokeswoman said: ‘HM Courts and Tribunals Service continues to keep the use of its estate under review to ensure it meets operational requirements.
‘Any new proposals to close courts beyond those already announced will be subject to consultation. No decisions have been made in regards to any future closure.’