The leader of Northumberland County Council is calling on MPs and councillors to speak out against the proposed closure of Morpeth County Court.
The Government’s Courts and Tribunals Service is currently consulting on plans to close 19 county courts, including Morpeth, as part of a number of closures across England and Wales.
This would leave the majority of residents and organisations from across the 5,013km² of Northumberland having to travel to Newcastle.
It follows on from previous court closures in recent years at Hexham and Alnwick. Some court business, yet to be determined, would be moved to Bedlington Magistrates Court, with the small court office at Berwick-upon-Tweed continuing to operate on a limited basis.
County council leader Grant Davey said: “Yet again we are seeing services moving out of Northumberland.
“The Government has already decided to move policing from the county to North Tyneside and is now planning to move the court systems to Newcastle. For a county of this size and rural nature this is ludicrous.
“It will make it very difficult for people to attend or afford to make court appearances, especially as the Government’s changes to the legal aid system disadvantage the poor – this will make matters much worse.
“It will place an additional burden and inconvenience on residents and businesses in Northumberland and on those who rely on public transport, access to which can be limited in rural areas.
“It will also place additional pressures on the council, which is already facing £44million of cuts from central Government, as officers will be faced with having to travel to, and pay for parking, in Newcastle.
“We currently make regular use of Morpeth County Court for a range of matters, including child and adult care proceedings as well as prosecutions and housing proceedings.
“The court in Newcastle is already struggling with the amount of work it currently has, so this could lead to delays in proceedings or our officers having to travel even further to other courts such as Sunderland, which is not the best use of their time.
“The Government’s own calculations show that the proposal would significantly increase travel times, with 70 per cent of people travelling via public transport from Morpeth alone taking between one and two hours, that’s before their journey to Morpeth, which in some rural areas may only have one bus service a day or week.
“I am calling on our local MPs and councillors, especially Conservative ones, to fight this proposed closure.”