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Courts: Buildings

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN HL1700, tabled on 21 July 2015

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Statement by Lord Faulks on 16 July (HLWS108), how many of the courts closed since 2010 remain to be disposed of, and what is the monthly cost of each such court building.

Answered on

14 September 2015

The Department is committed to disposing of surplus property assets expeditiously and reducing holding costs. As of 4 September 2015 a total of 80 courts closed under the Court Estate Reform Programme have been sold attracting disposal receipts of £49.18m.

The total cumulative gross benefits expected from the 2010 Court Estate Reform Programme are £152m, consisting of resource savings from court closures of £98m and gross capital proceeds of £54m from the sale of buildings.

The disposal of surplus property assets is dependent on a number of factors, such as the market, potential future use, location and the fact that some are occupied in part by the police and local authorities which also make disposal difficult. There are 13 closed court buildings closed since May 2010 that are currently not in use, the majority of which were closed under the Court Estate Reform Programme. Five of the closed court buildings which have not been disposed of are either under offer or on the market. Of those which have not yet been brought to the market, four court buildings have shared locations with the police which means the future of the building is tied in with the Police Station, one has a flying freehold issue and the other three were closed recently. We are working on bringing all of them to the market as soon as possible.

There are temporary costs associated with making sure unused buildings are kept secure, protecting the fabric of the building and property rates payable to local councils. In addition, decommissioning the buildings to make them ready for sale results in some costs which cannot be disaggregated from the overall running costs. However, these are significantly lower than the costs of running the courts when open, which will have included estates costs, staffing costs and the cost of the judiciary. On average the estates running costs alone for these courts are now more than £4,000 lower per month, almost £50,000 less a year, than when the courts were open. That does not include the further substantial savings from staffing and judiciary costs.

Table: Monthly cost of each court building which has been closed since May 2010 but not yet disposed of as at 4 September 2015

Court building

Average monthly cost1, 5

Alton Magistrates’ Court2

£9,828

Bracknell Magistrates’ Court

£5,319

Cirencester Magistrates’ Court

£1,472

Coleford Magistrates’ Court

£1,561

Keighley Magistrates’ Court (sitting at Bingley)

£2,011

Knutsford Crown Court2

£9,274

Liverpool Magistrates’ Court4

Not available

Lyndhurst Magistrates’ Court

£1,783

Oswestry Magistrates’ Court / County Court

£2,269

Pontefract Magistrates’ Court

£1,957

Spalding Magistrates’ Court2

£3,909

Totnes Magistrates’ Court3

£790

Towcester Magistrates’ Court3

£445

Footnotes:

1. Monthly cost based on financial year data 2014/15 (unless otherwise stated). Holding costs include rates, fuel and utilities, facilities management, telephony and other property costs.

2. These courts closed in financial year 2014/15 and the stated average monthly cost is therefore based on the last three months of 2014/15. The stated costs for these 3 courts are abnormally high because maintenance costs are likely to include decommissioning costs which are incurred shortly after closure. It is not possible to strip out any decommissioning costs from this answer without incurring disproportionate costs.

3. Monthly cost based on financial year data 2013/14 and 2014/15 in order to address accounting adjustments made in 2014/15.

4. Liverpool (Dale Street) Magistrates' Court was integrated into the QEII Law Courts as of 30 June, creating a single centre for crime in the city of Liverpool.