26/02/2012 Sunday Politics East


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In the east, the disruption in our courts after cuts and closures,


concern that justice is being eroded.


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2030 seconds


And the fight to save our local bus Hello, I'm at Etholle George.


Come the up, pressure is building in our magistrates' courts.


Magistrates voice concern that cutbacks and court closures are


pushing them to the brink. Later we will be pushing those


points to this week's guests, conservative justice minister


Jonathan Djanogli, and Kelvin Hopkins, Labour's MP for Luton


North. Let us start with a quick word


about fellow East Anglian MP, the beleaguered Health Secretary Andrew


Lansley, who was heckled on his way into Downing Street. Waiting times


in the NHS have gone down... Jonathan Djanogli, these health


reforms have not won many health professionals over. That was all in


a day's work for a minister. The reality is that we need to push


these reforms through. We need to have a health service that is going


to be freed at the point of delivery, but we need to realise


that there are more all the people and more new drugs coming on the


market. Why didn't Labour tackle health


service reform itself. I do not think it needs reform in this -- in


that sense. We need more resources, but the traditional health service,


publicly provided unfunded and three at the point of need, I think


is what we want to preserve. heard Jonathan Djanogli referred to


the lot of a minister. Have you ever had any abuse held at you'd?


Only by perhaps people who were more supportive of New Labour than


I was. But generally people are very nice.


How easy is it to deal with a difficult press? You have to get on


with it. You have to realise what the end game is, which in our case


is to improve the health service. This is it ring-fenced servers, but


we still need to get savings, which is why we are going to be getting


rid of the big bureaucracies and giving power back to GPs.


We will talk more about but another day.


The pressure is being put on the transport minister this week as the


fight to save rural bus services steps up. The protest is being led


by Norfolk MPs and councillors. A change in the funding formula for


concessionary travel has left not just Norfolk but many other rural


authorities out of pocket. They have campaigned together for


better train services and to save RAF Marham. Now, and offered's


politicians have the buses in their sights. Nearly 24,000 people had


signed the petition which be delivered to Number Ten. Rural


areas should be treated as fairly as city areas. We want that budget


more evenly spread. We want to preserve those services and the


public transport services for the remote areas, who rely on them.


Nor offered pays bus operators 11,500 -- �11.5 million for free


off-peak travel for this disabled and pensioners.


But a change in the funding formula left Norfolk out of pocket by �4.5


million. The central Government and the


Prime Minister have both backed the bus pass. That is great because the


concessionary bus pass has brought benefits for people across the


country. However, it is all very well saying they are backing the


bus pass, but unless they find it properly, they are leaving massive


hauls in some local authority budget.


The change in the form and that means that Moffatt's funding has


been cut by 38%, but in Russia it is getting 33%, Northamptonshire


18% less. The fear is that with less money to subsidise services,


it will only be a matter of time before the less profitable routes


close. I am joined by Derek Murphy, the


Conservative leader of Norfolk County Council. Why are the changes


to the funding formula particularly affecting Norfolk? It it does macro


is it a matter of geography? have 7,000 roads and a large


proportion of our population in rural areas, so if it will hit


rural areas hard it will disproportionately hit Norfolk.


There are 42 local bus operators, most of them are what people would


call small or medium-sized enterprises. For them to absorb the


extra cost with the reduction of the concessionary fares Monday,


means it is really difficult for them, and as your report suggests,


in some of the more rural areas, bus services might not operate.


Are you surprised at the level of support from other rural regions?


We welcome it enormously. The leader of Devon was there at Number


Ten when we submitted our petition, and it has brought in Cumbria,


Lancashire, North Yorkshire. This has hit a nerve with people.


Do you feel the Government is listening? I believe they are. The


Minister of Transport was very sympathetic to our case when we


submitted a petition. There is now a local Government finance working


group took me revisit the funding formula, and Eric Pickles, the


Cabinet minister for local Government, described the funding


formula as a dog's breakfast. He is keen for it to be unravelled and be


very fair. Kelvin Hopkins, Labour brought in


free bus passes and I am told without costing it correctly.


Hasn't that correct it -- I am certain the strongly in favour of


concessionary bus fares for all who need them. Including those in my


own constituency. We are not affected the same as rural areas,


but nevertheless there are those living in outlying estates who have


to get into town centres and have their troubles supported. So I am


absolutely in favour of concessionary bus fares. If


Government is to put in more cash, they should do so.


A Jonathan Djanogli if the Government had not deprived


councils of funds, there would be less of a problem anyway, so what


is to be done? I do not think it is Government


depriving councils - in Cambridgeshire, about four. It


million tickets were issued last year, and it is a great scheme. It


is doing a lot for the elderly and rejuvenating bus services. It is


very important. That costs �4.9 million of which Government gave


about �4 million. The scheme became even more successful, double as


many tickets issued - as some. Government has to cap it. We are


living in difficult times at the moment, so I totally accept there


is a debate to be had about how much central Government should pay


and how much should come from the local Government. But at the same


time it is a very successful scheme. Let us realise that at the same


time we have to be mindful of the cost.


Derek Murphy, do you have any sympathy for the case that Jonathan


Djanogli puts? I agree it is very successful, but in Norfolk


literally half the Government funding that we should receive


should be for these concessionary bus fares where we have the


shortfall. Next year it will be �5.2 million. We get �11 million,


we have lost half. You and I have spoken about cuts many times on


this programme. Is there anything that is going to go in the meantime


to maintain the services? We are negotiating with those operators to


try and sustained as many of the services as we can. On one hand we


tried to make as many local communities better link with the


outside world by getting super-fast broadband. But at the same time


although that is a good thing for local communities, to use their bus


can be devastating on a small village.


Nearly eight centuries of local justice could be at stake after the


reorganisation of our courts system. According to magistrates, cuts to


the criminal justice system and a programme of court closures are


jeopardising the bedrock of our British society - Justice. The


Government says the current system is unsustainable and has closed


five county courts and it magistrates courts around the


region last year. Harlow magistrates, now only hold trials -


for all of their hearings defendants and victims have to


travel to Chelmsford. A Lithuanian motorist stands


outside Great Yarmouth court after being told by magistrates that they


may tear up his case when he next appeared before them. He failed to


pay a �2 parking ticket and faces a �70 penalty charge. But at two


hearings, interpreters have failed to turn up. It is a waste of public


funds to have to travel back and forwards to court, monitor have it


adjourned again and again. Fair, open and effective local


justice is a long-held tradition in this country. But does in the


system have told the BBC they feared court services are fast


being eroded. Spending cuts have forced the closure of several


courts, and the Government has imposed its numerous changes on the


system. Solicitor and Rob New is worried about the closures of


magistrates' courts, but he says the reduction in staffing and


administration problems are causing delays. I have clients now who are


on bail for significant periods of time, reported to police stations,


been subject to curfews, and then you have victims who are themselves


have made reports to the police of crimes against them, and are not


seeing their cases being dealt with sometimes for half a year or more.


It is not hard to witness problems in the system. You just have to sit


in court and watch. In court rooms three and four here, the following


happened - two cases adjourned through lack of court time, a youth


trial stopped for the same reason. Two cases adjourned because they


could not get interpreters - one of these cases had been halted for a


second time. And one man left hanging around the court building


for eight hours waiting for his case to be heard, he pleaded not


guilty to theft. His case - adjourned. It is leading to a huge


backlog of cases in the sister. Jason appeared in court accused of


not having a driving licence. have just adjourned it.


In it emerged that Mr Shaw own thousands in unpaid court finds for


various driving offences. Why have you not paid? I have not bothered


paying them. Although 100 miles away in Harlow,


the court there will hold trials only from April, minute all other


cases will be heard 20 miles away in Chelmsford. High Low has large


areas of deprivation. Magistrates feared many defendants will not be


able to afford the cost of public transport to reach the new court.


Because of the difficulty of getting into Chelmsford from Harlow,


you have an awful lot of offenders and defendants who were just not


turn up. They will say, I could not afford it, but actually we are


setting them up to fail, almost, under the circumstances. What


happens then? There will probably be a warrant, which will be given


out for their arrest, so the police in harder will have to arrest them


or bring them all the way up to Chelmsford because they have to


appear within 24 hours of arrest. That is taking them out of their


area, it is a cost to the police. To many in the courts, local


justice is becoming less local, and more remote.


There was a time when the Crown Prosecution Service was within the


building, so if somebody arrives in custody the papers could be very


quickly located and be dealt with. Now, everything is site --


centralised, and the CPS offices for this area or up on a business


park. It is not easy to get Hall of the things.


Magistrates are also concerned about their role in local justice


being reduced because police are increasingly using on-the-spot


fines. The Magistrates' Association and the Essex branch do not believe


that cuts should go ahead at any price. But at the end of the day,


cutting just to save money but actually having a detrimental


effect on the community, but we live in an self, we don't believe


that this is the way to go. To Manchester's courts and


tribunals Service said keeping under utilised courts open is


simply not a good use of taxpayers' money. Essex courts have performed


well of the last year, with 80% of that cases completed within six


weeks against the national average of 75% we have taken account of the


longer distance of people travelling from Hoddle by fixing


bail time of 10:45am instead of Jonathan Djanogli, you said changes


to the court system would mean, and I quote, a better, more efficient


and more modern system of justice. With all due respect it looks as


though things are descending into chaos. We have already delivered


all of those things. We huge leap value the role of magistrates, and


the fact is that their workload has fallen by about a third in the last


five years. One of the reasons was given on your programme, which is


police handing out tickets. We are looking at that, looking to see


whether magistrates can have a role in monitoring the police giving


tickets, but we do have to move with the times. If we look at the


courts themselves, when we came into Government records were


operating out something like 60% capacity. Some were only open one


day a week or every two weeks. In a time when we do need savings, we


had to deal with a bat. Is it proper justice, though, being


handed out a fine for a serious offence that you should appear


before a magistrate for? A lot of things, on-the-spot fines are a


good way to deal with it, however, a series of violent offence, they


should be taken to court. It means people avoid getting a police


record, doesn't it? No, it would be a record, and a caution counts as a


record as well. But we do think that they should be a role for


magistrates in overseeing the police in handing out these fines.


In terms of making the system more efficient, we actually have cases


going through the courts quicker now than when we came into power.


Some people are saying that that isn't the case, and they have


clients... Nationally it is the case - caught by caught it may not


be... One more point. What about that issue of people travelling


long distances, not being able to afford the journey, papers being in


that wrong place? What I say is that firstly 85% of the population


live within an hour on public transport of the court. Yes, there


are best courts, but the courts that we have are better. You


mentioned cases going from Harlow to Chelmsford. That will be a new


court opening in a month, with five courts in it. It will provide a


better place to work for magistrates, and indeed court staff,


and indeed the witnesses and the victims have to go there.


Let me bring Kelvin Hopkins in. Labour also made changes to the


courts system, saying they would have closed courts themselves. I


quote the Sharda Justice Secretary. In Bedfordshire we have had for


magistrates' courts close in the last few years. Luton is staying


come I am happy about that, but if the Government focused more on


unpaid fines, �1.3 billion worth instead of the relatively much


smaller amount they could save by squeezing the court system, they


would be doing a better job. Are you happy with the decisions


that have been made? A agree that unpaid fines is an issue, left from


the last Government. It is an area of Government we are doing a lot


about, and the conception rates have huge increase over the last


year. Coven, unhappy with the way things


are panning out? No, I think we have high unemployment now, and I


am concerned about that. Now far our weekly political round-


-- now for our weekly round-up. It gets MPs huffing and puffing -


dimension of a family the PM is all too familiar with.


Our 11-year-old son asked, is Nick Clegg a goodie or a badly?


There is only so much detail I can take!


Policing minister Nick Herbert hit the mean streets of its which this


week, talking about plans to end eight police and crime


commissioners. The chief constable is operationally independent and


will remains so. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls visited


Stevenage's Technology Centre. There is great innovation here.


Southend's David AMs talk about fish.


And yes, the MPs gave the opposition and the press their just


deserts. I am told they won it after a re


run cold by the press. Jonathan Djanogli let us talk about


the police commissioners. Chief come up -- will chief constables


and commissioners clash? I think it is is very important initiative.


Local democracy is now moving to the police. If you went round and


ask people who the current police authority chairmen is, let alone


members of the police authority, I do not think they would have a clue.


Now they are going to be asked to elect people.


Kevin Hopkins, the police authorities do not have been at


thief, a figurehead is needed? think the police themselves do not


like the idea of elected commissioners, and I can foresee


some political problems arising out of that. We may get trivial figures,


pop musicians or whoever, being elected. I think the system we have


now works - what we need is more resources.


We have to lead -- we have to leave it there.


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