You are here

MoJ budget to be cut by 23 per cent

20 October 2010

The MoJ’s budget will be cut by 23 per cent over the next four years, the chancellor George Osborne told parliament today.

Although some commentators were predicting a figure of 30 per cent, some savage cuts were contained in the detailed Treasury statement on the comprehensive spending review released after Osborne sat down.

The CPS will be hit by a 25 per cent cut over four years and must “radically reduce its cost base while maintaining and strengthening its capability to protect the public by robust and effective prosecutions”.

It is unlikely that any new prisons or courts will be built for some time, with the MoJ asked to make capital savings of 50 per cent and plans for a new 1,500-place prison deferred until the next spending review.

There were no details on future cuts to legal aid, expected to be the subject of a green paper next month. There will also be a green paper on sentencing.

Richard Miller, head of legal aid at the Law Society, said the MoJ’s budget cut was “marginally less bad than we thought it would be, but not sufficiently less bad to generate any optimism.

“It remains uncertain what will happen to legal aid, and we will continue to make the case that savings are best made by tackling the demand rather than the structure of the system.”

He warned that the cash-strapped CPS might be tempted to make greater use of unqualified “associate prosecutors” who were often not properly supported and could not make decisions about cases, leading to adjournments.

Steve Hynes, director of the Legal Action Group, questioned whether the cuts to the MoJ could be delivered.

He said the budget had already been cut by £1bn over the past three years and the “cupboard was bare”.

Hynes went on: “The cost drivers on prisons and courts are out of their control. Are the paper figures in the spending review going to be achieved?”

He added that the CPS might attempt to secure its 25 per cent savings by instructing external barristers and solicitors and squeezing fees.

Staff at the MoJ face an even bleaker future than those at the CPS. Back office and administration costs will be cut by 33 per cent and its “London estate” reduced from 18 buildings to only four.

The government is already consulting on plans to shut 157 magistrates’ and county courts and promises to use “mediation and alternatives to court where possible”.

Categorised in:

Regulators Legal Aid Procedures Wills, Trusts & Probate