Accrington Magistrates and County courts are set to close under new government proposals to save more than £200,000 a year.
A consultation has been launched about shutting the 80-year-old Grade II listed Magistrates Court building – one of 10 being considered across East Lancashire.
The closure would mean users currently served in Accrington would have to travel six miles to Blackburn Magistrates Court where cases would be heard.
Documents produced by the Ministry of Justice said the court currently deals with non-police and private prosecution criminal business and has ‘very low’ use, only sitting one day a week.
It said: “It is proposed that Accrington Magistrates’ Court is closed and the workload transferred to Blackburn Magistrates’ Court.
“Should Accrington Magistrates’ Court close it will enable the work to be moved to a larger venue and allow the receiving court to be more responsive and flexible with the listing of cases, meeting user and work flow demands more effectively.
“An improved service will be delivered with courts being used more efficiently.”
The Ministry of Justice said the building is currently in a ‘poor state of repair with leaks to the roof causing damage to public and court areas’.
Figures show the court was only utilised at two per cent of its capacity during the 2014/15 financial year.
No staff are based at the building, which costs £80,000 a year to run.
Under the plans Accrington County Court would also close with their workload moving to Burnley.
The government said facilities at the 1960s building are ‘generally in a poor state of repair and do not meet the minimum standards required by the Equality Act 2010’.
The court, which costs around £123,000 each year to operate, currently sits on average two days each month and has two staff based there.
The Ministry of Justice said: “Should Accrington County Court close it will enable the work to be moved to a purpose built venue with good facilities for users and allow the receiving court to be more responsive and flexible with the listing of cases, meeting user and workflow demands more effectively.
“Burnley Combined Court offers an improved level of accommodation for court users, judiciary and staff in a relatively modern building which was purpose built for county court use.”
Gill Hague, delivery director at HM Courts & Tribunals Service North West, said ‘challenging decisions’ needed to be made over their courts and tribunals estate.
She said: “I have identified buildings where I believe our ability to deliver an efficient service has been compromised by poor facilities, where usage is low and where the building does not provide appropriate value for the public money spent on it.
“Of course, staff would be affected by these proposed changes. I understand that these proposals could result in some people having longer journeys to the courts and tribunals.
“I am keen to hear people’s views on the different ways they would like to interact with their courts and tribunals, particularly from those in rural communities.
“It is important we understand the demand for these different methods as we plan provision for the future.”
The consultation will run until October 5 and to comment on the proposals call 0161 240 5021 or email email@example.com.
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