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CONSULTATION BEGINS ON FUNDING OF MAGISTRATES COURTS

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Plans to create a modern funding system for magistrates courts have been unveiled by the lord chancellor's departme...
Plans to create a modern funding system for magistrates courts have been unveiled by the lord chancellor's department.

The consultation paper, Review of Magistrates' Courts Revenue Grant

Allocation Formula, proposes that magistrates courts, like other

public services, are funded in a way that takes more account of

actual workload instead of being based largely on population and

historical spending.

The new formula would be used from April 2001 to allocate funding to

the forty-two Magistrates' Courts Committees (MCCs) in England and

Wales. Around 75% of the grant would be based on workload and around

25% on accommodation and other overheads. In addition, up to£2m would be set aside each year to reward performance, for example in speeding up the time cases take to go through the courts.

The new system would also take account of the extra costs of

providing services in rural areas, in the Welsh Language and in the

south-east.

Jane Kennedy, minister at the lord chancellor's department, said:

'The government holds the magistracy in great esteem and recognises a

debt of gratitude for its commitment. Over 95% of all criminal cases

begin and end in the magistrates' courts. Without these efforts, the

criminal justice system would grind to a halt.

'That is why we believe it is vitally important to help the

magistrates courts service to modernise and in particular to improve

performance. The consultation paper published today aims to provide a

funding formula which will help the magistrates courts achieve this.

'The service has long been dissatisfied with the current system.

These proposals aim to produce a simpler, more transparent funding

system which allocates grant more fairly while promoting efficiency

and improved performance. We want all magistrates courts committees

to be meeting the standards of the best.

'I am sure members of the magistrates court service will take the

opportunity to comment on this important consultation.'

The new system would also involve a small amount of grant being

retained centrally, as before, to fund specific costs such as the

transitional costs of amalgamation or projects which will benefit

other MCCs. Changes in funding allocations would be introduced

gradually with measures to help MCC's cope with the transition.

The magistrates courts service have voiced criticisms of the current

funding on the basis that it:

- does not direct funding in accordance with need

- distributes resources on the basis of historic outturn

- is not transparently fair

- does not promote efficiency and good performance

- does not provide year-on-year stability

Responses on the consultation paper are sought by 4 October 2000.

Notes

1. The lord chancellor's department supports the local management of

the magistrates courts through magistrates courts committees (MCC).

It provides local authorities with a grant which meets 80% of the

MCC's expenditure. Local authorities contribute 20%.

2. Copies of the consultation paper are available from Daveena Ogene on 020 7210 8783. It is also available on the LCD

website. Comments should be sent to: Mr M Kavuma, Lord Chancellor's Department, 4th Floor, Selborne House, 54-60 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6QW.

3. The revenue grant for magistrates' courts has been allocated under

the present formula since 1993 and has been kept under review since

December 1994. A review was set up in July 1996 and concluded in June

1998. However, consultation on these conclusions raised concerns and

the Magistrates' Courts Consultative Council concluded it did not

want to see changes to the funding formula until the MCC amalgamation

programme was completed in April 2001. As a result the funding

formula was frozen.

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