Yesterday, a delegation from Salford Council went to see Jonathan Djanogly, Parliamentary Under Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, to try and save Salford's magistrates' and county court from being merged into Manchester.
The Council's case was that Salford has had a court in the city for 1000 years and that to vacate the famous Grade II listed Bexley Square building would cost more than doing it up and keeping it open.
Apparently, the Court Service wants to shut Bexley Square down because it's not busy enough, although this is disputed by the Council which says the court is "busier than 90 per cent of the courts on the `at risk' list and is busier than many courts not on that list both in the North West and beyond".
It appears that Salford Council is doing its bit to help keep the place busy by getting in a financial battle with `Her Majesty's Court Service' over failure to pay for its bit of Bexley Square since 2005. A Council report states…
"Her Majesty's Courts Service have managed the property since 1st April 2005 but have to date failed to recover costs in respect of the Council's accommodation and common parts for which the City Council have a liability."
The Council owes £306,504 in rent and stuff and £271,964 for `capital costs', and is going to have to borrow the money as "No provision has been made for these costs".
But it looks like the Council ain't going to pay Her Maj, arguing that she owes them money for developing the aborted Magistrates Court buildings…
"The Council has been informed that a bill is imminent for the past five years worth of costs associated with the accommodation at Bexley Square" says Councillor David Lancaster, Deputy Leader of Salford City Council "However we will be responding on the basis that the council has incurred costs above £500,000 on both the Swinton and Eccles Magistrates Court proposals and we will be seeking an adjustment to the bill when received."
A new Battle of Bexley Square looms…
Graphic by Jamie Reid