Almost two-thirds of users of the Salford civil claims centre rate the service as poor, according to a survey reflecting continued frustration with the new central facility.
The figure is among the findings of a poll of 47 legal firms, 40 of which use the service every day, released last week. One-third of respondents felt that the service had deteriorated in the past six months.
The study was carried out by commercial debt recovery firm Lovetts in conjunction with the Civil Court Users Association (CCUA) and revealed at the association’s annual conference. Its publication coincides with new concerns about delays and missing files raised by the Law Society civil justice committee, which visited the Salford centre last month.
In a speech to the CCUA, Lovetts managing director Charles Wilson said: ‘Clearly there is room for improvement. The reputation of many UK businesses is very unfairly damaged because our court system is slow, error-prone and won’t tell us what’s happening.’
Keith Etherington, Law Society Council member for solicitors practising civil litigation, said duplicate documents were posing problems for the centre. He added that the civil justice committee is working with HMCTS to publish a guide on simple steps to reduce delays.
An HMCTS spokesperson said: ‘We were very grateful for the feedback we received from CCUA members at their conference last week. HMCTS strives to provide an efficient and effective service to all its users. To that end we are committed to working with court users, professional bodies and customers, listening to their feedback, in order to continuously improve our service.
‘Over 90% of work received at civil courts and business centres is processed within five working days. The County Court Bulk Centre in Northampton dealt with 97% of all of its administrative work within five days for the financial year to September 2012.
‘The County Court Money Claims Centre (CCMCC) in Salford is currently processing around 7,400 claims, 2,370 defences and 2,065 judgments each week within an average of three working days. However, we know there is room for improvement. In order to provide the best possible service for customers we are increasing resources at the Centre by 10%. We are also continually reviewing our processes, using customer feedback such as this, to make improvements in the service we deliver.
‘The CCMCC is expected to deliver £4m in costs savings in 2012/13, its first full year of operation.’