It’s my view that this would be a bad move for many local people, and I and colleagues are drafting a series of consultation responses to defend the position we are in, but even more significantly to look at other areas where there is a realistic opportunity to keep justice local, through new models of working.
Exactly what this may look like we don’t know yet, but we do know that there are some civic buildings in the town that are under-utilised at the present time, not least the Town Hall, and we are considering whether some services could be co-located in the future.
As soon as we became aware of these proposals I had an urgent meeting in Westminster with the Justice Minster and Under Secretary of State, who has responsibility for the courts and legal aid.
I challenged aspects of the initial Eastbourne briefing paper – specifically around our poor transport links and stated journey times and also the impact on access to legal aid.
I am particularly concerned that, yet again services in Eastbourne could be diverted to Hastings and/or Brighton.
We discussed the potential for re-establishing the court in alternative civic buildings – the Town Hall perhaps or Grove Road where we already have council and police shared space in operation.
I have already secured agreement from the Minister that innovative local propositions such as these would be considered in the consultation.
I understand that savings must be found across government departments but I will be working hard to make our case to keep justice local to the Under Secretary of State ahead of the consultation close in October.
Joining me at the meeting this afternoon will be representatives from the council, politicians from both sides, the Ministry of Justice, the police, the voluntary sector and local solicitors.
The consultation runs to October 8 and you can download the consultation document by visiting my website www.carolineansell.co.uk, and you can have your say by writing to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to 42 Grove Road, Eastbourne BN21 4TY. Alternatively write directly to HMCTS Consultation, Ministry of Justice, Post point 1.13, 102 Petty France, London SW1H 9AJ or email email@example.com