Six months on from the government announcement of the closure of Chorley Magistrates’ Court – and a date on its closure and any potential job losses have still to be finalised, leaving staff in limbo.
In July last year the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced the town’s magistrates’ court would be closing its doors in a cost-cutting move.
Six months on, the Guardian can reveal that a closure date is still to be agreed upon – and no update has been given on potential job losses.
Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who previously said the closure shows a lack of commitment to law and order in Lancashire, has stated his frustration at the unknowns in the situation.
Sir Lindsay said: “The staff [at Chorley Magistrates’ Court] should be kept informed at every point along the way.
“The Ministry of Justice has a duty to look after its employees.”
In July, Chorley Council also went public with its opposition to the decision.
Speaking six months on, Coun Alistair Bradley, Leader of Chorley Council, said: “It doesn’t surprise me that it is still up in the air because I don’t think the Ministry of Justice’s plans relating to court closures had been thought through properly.
“They should have had a plan in place once they announced the closures as the uncertainty doesn’t help anyone whether that’s the staff working there or the businesses such as solicitors, which use the court.
“Perhaps it is a sign that the court is still required and if that’s the case I’d urge the Ministry of Justice to reconsider its decision again and retain its services in our town centre.”
Responding to the Guardian’s questions, an HM Courts and Tribunals spokesman said: “No date has been set for the closure of Chorley Magistrates Court.
“We are currently developing a timeline for the work so cannot confirm a potential closure date at this stage.
“The closure of any court is not taken lightly and, where a service is moved outside the local area, this will only happen following a full public consultation.”
A spokesman added that money raised from the sale of these buildings will be reinvested into the justice system.
Sir Lindsay is also campaigning for the DoJ to choose Chorley as a home for a future legal administration centre, with part of the reasoning behind this to secure jobs that could be lost as a result of the court’s closure.
More than 130 job losses have been mooted as a result of Chorley and other county magistrates’ courts – including Fleetwood – closing.