In a debate in Parliament last week (Thursday 17th September) Marie Rimmer, MP for St Helens South and Whiston, called on the Justice Minister Shailesh Vara MP to urgently review inaccuracies in the Government consultation proposals to close St Helens Courthouse.
On the floor of the House of Commons Marie challenged information in the consultation on both travel and court usage upon which the proposed closure is being based: “There are serious concerns about the accuracy and quality of the communications in the consultation.”
She added: “The travel network is not described accurately in the documentation. It is calculated that the 14-mile journey from St Helens court in Liverpool will take 45 minutes. That takes no account of peak times, delays, parking, or getting to the court in the city centre. People have to travel within the town centre to get a train out to Liverpool and then walk across the city or get another mode of travel.”
Marie also highlighted that in September 2014, the Department for Transport closed the Transport Direct Journey Planner tool used in the impact assessment to calculate travel times by car and public transport. The methodology that the government used for their calculations has not been publicised as part of the consultation.
The statistics on court usage in the consultation document were also called into question by Marie who said: “The consultation document states that the court was utilised at approximately 62% capacity, but that figure has been vigorously challenged. The council is having difficulty getting time allocated to court cases due to the lack of capacity in the courts.”
St Helens has the third highest usage among the 91 courts and tribunals across England and Wales facing proposed closure by the Government.
Following the debate Marie said: “I have urged the Minister to look again at the information in this proposal. St Helens Court is a fit for purpose well-used facility in the town which in 2012 benefitted from a £1.7 million capital investment.”