THE CURTAIN is finally set to officially come down on Solihull Magsitrate’s Court.
Government streamlining to save over £700m and improve efficiency and services within the courts system will see the Solihull building sold off to raise around £2million for the judicial system.
Solihull Magistrates Court has been mothballed since January 2014 with cases being heard in Birmingham.
And that arrangement is now officially set to become permanent following an announcement in the House of Lords that the site – along with many other ‘underused’ courts across the country will be sold off.
The statement in the House of Lords said: “The government is committed to modernising the way in which justice is accessed and delivered.
“We are investing over £700m over the next four years to update the court and tribunal estate, installing modern IT systems and making the justice system more efficient and effective for modern users.
“Working closely with the judiciary, we have begun installing Wi-Fi and digital systems in our criminal courts but much more needs to be done. We want to make the entire justice system more accessible to everyone – witnesses, victims, claimants, police and lawyers – by using modern technology including online plea, claims and evidence systems and video conferencing, reducing the need for people to travel to court.
“As part of this modernisation, the court and tribunal estate has to be updated. Many of the current 460 court buildings are underused: last year 48 per cent of all courts and tribunals were empty for at least half their available hearing time. These buildings are expensive to maintain yet unsuitable for modern technology.
“Court closures are difficult decisions; local communities have strong allegiances to their local courts and I understand their concerns. But changes to the estate are vital if we are to modernise a system which everybody accepts is unwieldy, inefficient, slow, expensive to maintain and unduly bureaucratic.
“For each proposal in the consultation, we have considered access to justice; value for money; and efficiency. The consultation response, which is being published today, contains details of all the decisions and changes including an indicative timetable for closures, and will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.”
Solihull MP Julian Knight, who has been keeping a close eye on the proposals to ensure the best services for the people of Solihull, said he hoped the sale of the building would allow for a redevelopment which would provide more jobs in the town.
he added: “When the proposal to close Solihull Magistrates’ Court was first discussed, I met with the relevant Minister about what impact this would have.
“I asked the Minister to ensure that adequate service levels are provided at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court to cope with the additional hearings it will receive as a result of the closure.
“I also raised with him the idea of pop-up courts in Solihull for certain types of cases and tribunals in places such as hotel function rooms, and at the Council House, and this is something he is investigating further.
“Throughout this process I have been assured that there will be no job losses and that Solihull residents still have good access to legal services, and this announcement does not change that.”