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Courts Service

Volume 449: debated on Tuesday 25 July 2006

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) what the budget for 2006-07 is for the Courts Service in (a) Dorset, (b) Gloucestershire and (c) Wiltshire; and what changes will be made to the budget as a result of the restructuring in October; (87480)

(2) what consultation was carried out prior to the decision to amalgamate the Dorset Courts Board with the Wiltshire Courts Board and the Gloucestershire Courts Board from October; and what the effect of the restructuring will be upon the Courts Service in Dorset;

(3) how many people are employed by the Courts Service in (a) Dorset, (b) Gloucestershire and (c) Wiltshire; and how many jobs will be lost in each county as a result of the restructuring in October.

The budget allocation for FY 2006-07 is: Dorset—£7.647 million; Gloucestershire—£5.644 million; and Wiltshire—£6.620 million. Re-structuring will not be completed until 31 March 2007 and no changes will be made to the FY2006-07 budget allocations for these three areas as a result of the re-structuring exercise. The appropriate budget allocation for the new amalgamated Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire area will be determined in due course as part of the annual financial planning cycle.

Under the provisions of the Courts Act 2003, Section 4, the Lord Chancellor may make orders altering the HMCS areas but, before doing so, must consult any Courts Board(s) affected. This process has been invoked and each of the existing Court Boards have been invited to express their views by 31 July 2006. It is anticipated that the separate Courts Boards for Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire will continue to operate in their current form until the end of FY 2006-07. Meanwhile, arrangements will be made to select members for a new single Courts Board which will correspond to the amalgamated Dorset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire area. This will be done in close liaison with the Chairmen and Members of the existing bodies. Delivery of the service to court users in Dorset (as with Gloucestershire and Wiltshire) will not be affected by the re-structuring, and support to the judiciary at bench and court level will remain as it is now.

The number of people employed by Her Majesty’s Courts Service in the three areas (expressed as full-time equivalents) as at June 2006 is: Dorset—219; Gloucestershire—163; and Wiltshire—193. While the precise management structure for the amalgamated area cannot be determined until a new Area Director has been appointed in October 2006, it is likely that re-structuring will directly affect only a very small number of senior management posts and those more junior staff who directly support them, leaving the courts operational staff unaffected. It is anticipated that this will be achieved through a combination of redeployment, natural wastage and targeted voluntary redundancy. Trades Unions will be consulted, at every stage.