GMWRAG isn’t tracking the general election but…

GMWRAG has exhausted itself electing a new GM (Greater Manchester NOT genetically modified!) Mayor and has little enthusiasm for closely tracking the forthcoming General Election. However, we’re happy to point our members to a few resources which will help you do so if you wish. It is already very noticeable that this is not going to be an election in which welfare reform and poverty are at the top of anyone’s list.

The BBC have helpfully produced an election tracker, which you can find at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-39844115 or by clicking the magic words in this sentence. “Welfare” comes in at 11th on the number of things they’re tracking although you could argue that “Pensions” coming in at 5th has some significance! Lots of tabloids are tracking little more than who the pundits think will win but you could invest some of your diminishing faith in pollsters following the excess of statistics at Electoral Calculus.

Of more interest our friends at Rightsnet have identified at least three suggestions for manifestos. GMWRAG thinks it’s worthwhile digesting all three but may wonder out loud whatever happened to campaigning to change things rather than asking for tweaks to the status quo? Can Universal Credit ever be made to work, or make work pay (as opposed to merely function in the former case!)? No mention of the mess which is the Benefit Cap or even DHPs!

– Citizens Advice: Citizens Advice has 5 big asks for the next government
– CPAG: Election 2017 manifesto
– The Law Society: Law Society unveils election manifesto for Brexit Britain

Court closures in the North West.

Spin this one whichever way you want, but GMWRAG members in many areas will have been dismayed yesterday to discover the final list of court closures in the North West. Many of these venues have been the home to first tier tribunal oral hearings for many years and it is easy to forget that these closures will impact social security claimants and advisers alike at a time when the introduction of PIP is reducing the number of people with access to a vehicle and concessionary travel. It is cold comfort indeed to read that “The proportion able to reach a tribunal within an hour by car will remain unchanged at 83%.”.

Little wonder the Tribunal Service is finally busying itself looking at Alternative Dispute Resolution and IT based solutions for some time in 2017.

The full list of closures can be found here but to make it clear how bleak this is the list includes

  • Accrington County Court
  • Accrington Magistrates’ Court
  • Bolton County Court and Family Court
  • Bury Magistrates’ Court and County Court
  • Oldham County Court
  • Oldham Magistrates’ Court
  • Runcorn (Halton) Magistrates’ Court
  • St Helens Magistrates’ Court
  • Tameside County Court
  • Trafford Magistrates’ Court and Altrincham County Court
  • Wrexham Tribunal (Rhyd Broughton)
  • Kendal Magistrates’ Court and County Court
  • Macclesfield County Court
  • Macclesfield Magistrates’ Court
  • Ormskirk Magistrates’ Court and Family Court
  • Warrington County Court

A small plus is that Stockport and St Helens (County) have survived.

Further details and commentary can be found in the Law Society Gazette. An equally interesting perspective on court closures, IT and ADR can be found on the Clinks blog. In this context of course it is vital that all GMWRAG members are aware of the work of the Bach Commission (no, not that one!) on access to justice as a fundamental right.