Not a great start
As a week long campaign to help raise the profile of justice and the rule of law got underway yesterday, the government revealed that the resource budget for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will be cut by £300 million.
While there was no mention of justice in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s budget speech, the Treasury’s report shows the MoJ’s annual pot of cash will shrink from £6.3 billion in 2018/19 to £6 billion in 2019/20. Meanwhile, the capital budget will drop from £600 million in 2018/19 to £400 million in 2019/20. This will decrease to just £100 million in 2020/21, according to the report.
In terms of spending commitments, the report says the budget will help fund a new £170 million Glen Parva prison, £30 million to improve “security and decency” across the prison network, and a £21.5 million investment in the “wider justice system”. Figures show that by 2019/20, the MoJ’s day-to-day will have reduced by over a third in the last ten years.
Responding to the budget, shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon warned austerity will continue in justice. He said:
“Tory cuts are fuelling a crisis across our justice system — from chaos in our prisons to pricing victims out of being able to access legal aid. Despite what the Tories promised, today’s Budget does not end austerity. Justice has been cut to the bone, but there’s still hundreds of millions of pounds of justice cuts to come by 2020. As we have long warned, those cuts are going to push our justice system from deep crisis into a full-blown emergency. If that happens, the responsibility for it lies squarely with the Tories’ ideological commitment to cuts.”
The disappointing budget came as lawyers embarked on a week-long celebration of all things justice.
Justice Week 2018 — a new initiative set up by the three legal professional bodies; the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) — aims to promote the value of the rule of law to audiences beyond the legal community through a programme of research, public events, and digital content.