A senior civil servant from HM Courts & Tribunals Service has insisted that the performance of the Salford civil claims centre is improving – while admitting the IT system is still ‘rubbish’.
Jonathan Wood, national business centres cluster manager, told the Law Society civil justice section conference in London yesterday that better training and infrastructure had created a significant turnaround in the speed of the operation.
Wood said the move to process all claims to county courts through a central facility had also saved £3m in the last year – though this was £1m less than ministers had predicted in March 2012.
But, pressed by audience members on the computer system for filing documents, he admitted there were still problems.
‘There is a 2-megabyte limit because our systems are rubbish,’ he said. ‘[Bigger files] physically won’t come through to us and will break the system.
‘I expect most [law] firms have more proficient IT people than we do in the courts. What we’re trying to do is flag up we have these problems and find solutions.’
HMCTS says firms can do more to help the centre process files more quickly, including packaging documents in zip folders and labeling emails with what the attachment is about.
Wood said 97.5% of the centre’s work is turned around within the target of five days – a big improvement on a year ago when it was just over 50%.
It now receives 8,000 documents a day and 14,000 calls. In its first year the centre issued 390,000 claims and processed more than two million documents.
Despite these numbers, Wood said there had been just 601 formal complaints from users of the service.
‘Against the context of 390,000 claims issued it looks pretty good,’ he added. ‘But I know there is a bigger problem with the service than that reflects.
‘If we’re not doing it right or getting things wrong [solicitors] need to tell us about it and put it in a letter. We have a mechanism to fix it.’