Chancellor George Osborne has committed the government to a long-requested £700m investment upgrade for courts in England and Wales.
Osborne used his spending review today to announce the allocation of money for new technology and IT upgrades.
He revealed that the funding would be found from the programme to close 91 courts across the country – with the Ministry of Justice set to reveal which will shut early next year.
‘The lord chancellor has worked with the lord chief justice and others to put forward a typically bold and radical plan to transform our courts so they are fit for the modern age,’ Osborne told the House of Commons.
‘Under-used courts will be closed, and I can announce today the money saved will be used to fund a £700m investment in new technology that will bring further and permanent long-term savings, and speed up the process of justice.’
The upgrade will generate savings to the taxpayer of around £200m a year from 2019/20.
The statement included no pledge to amend the criminal courts charge or civil court fees, but it did pledge to ‘look at changes’ to court fees as it seeks to put courts on a ‘more sustainable financial footing’.
The £700m investment is likely to come from receipts from the sale of the courts estate.
In its impact assessment for court closures, the MoJ estimated the disposal value of all the freehold buildings listed for closure at £35m.
The assessment said plans will save £30m a year by 2020 – including £6m a year in staff costs.
The technology upgrade has long been requested by the judiciary and court users. The former justice secretary, Chris Grayling (pictured), pledged to commit to the spending last year.
In a joint letter with lord chief justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd and senior president of tribunals Sir Jeremy Sullivan, Grayling said the upgrade would enable the legal profession and other justice agencies to adopt more efficient and cost-saving working practices by using digital technology in their dealings with the courts and tribunals.