Will we allow the Criminal Justice System to follow The Downward Spiral of Cost Neutrality, into oblivion?
Dear Steve Wadd,
Thank you for your email in regards to the new 700 trains introduced to our service. I would like to apologise for any discomfort you experienced when travelling with us.
I appreciate your comments regarding the safety of a crowded train and we can understand why full trains can cause concerns with safety. It must be made clear that safety is of paramount importance to us and will not be jeopardised.
There is no evidence to suggest that crowded trains carry any additional safety risk. Millions of passengers travel with us each year and travelling by trains continues to be a very safe way to travel. The industry view is that this is an issue of comfort and, although it is less comfortable to stand, there is no significant additional safety risk. We are working closely with industry colleagues to increase the amount of rolling stock, thus increasing capacity during peak times.
I would like to go into some detail in regards to the background, and decisions that went into the design of this new fleet.
These particular trains were designed by Siemens the manufacturer, to meet a specification developed by the Department for Transport in consultation with train operators and other stakeholders. These parties included UK train crew, cleaning and maintenance staff and engineers and were designed specifically for the benefit of the Thameslink Programme. They feature the latest in passenger information technology and intelligent climate control as well as excellent accessibility for passengers with mobility issues and, when fully integrated on to the Thameslink route, we believe they’ll make a real difference to every journey.
Looking at the ratio of seats on board , this was deliberated on at the design stage . A survey prepared for Transport Focus in a joint project with the Department of Transport and London TravelWatch highlighted that “The majority of passengers in the sample recognise the underlying design objective to increase capacity during peak times especially by increasing the ratio of standing spaces to seats rather than how the seats are presented.”
The full research findings are available on the Transport Focus website in a document entitled ‘Thameslink Rolling Stock Qualitative Research’ although we appreciate that many customers do not necessarily agree with this outcome, there is a real balance needed between seating and overall capacity to meet the needs of ever growing customer numbers.
The survey also picked up other areas that were seen as important to the customers surveyed and included:
• Safe and comfortable standing was the number one priority
• Wanted more personal space
• ‘Three plus two’ seating was disliked
• ‘Two plus two’, perch and tip-up seating was welcomed – also on outer routes
• Wider stand-backs around doors welcomed.
I would like to assure you that all feedback that we receive is passed to our engineering team who are currently working alongside Siemens to ensure that these trains meet the current passenger demand. Further to this, following recent feedback, I am pleased to be able to tell you that we will be introducing back seat tables and Wi-Fi which will be retro fitted in the coming months.
Plug sockets were not fitted at the time as most tablets, smartphones and laptops have a good battery life – and as very few Thameslink passengers will have journeys of not much more than an hour, the increased costs outweighed the benefit of being fitted. This has however been discussed further and we are exploring the possibility of having charging points added. The decision on this will be made in the coming months.
Thank you for taking the time to contact us. I am sorry that you feel that the quality of your journey has been reduced because of your personal preferences around fixtures and fittings but still hope that the introduction of these trains will improve your experience whilst travelling with us.
Customer Relations Advisor
The new 700 trains operated by Thameslink are smart but horrid.
Exactly like it is.
For those wishing to see the real world, pay a visit to the County town of Sussex, Lewes.
There, in the town centre, demolition of the old new Magistrates Court is nearly complete.
Princess Diana of Wales opened it while still married! Thats how long government memories last.
“What a day I had the other day, I tell you. Had to go to court, I was the prosecution’s star witness, me. Not that I should get ahead of myself, mind.
“It was about that bit of a do I witnessed that time, you remember? Didn’t know where to look, me, so ended up looking right at it and giving a statement to the police and that.
“So I got this letter through saying I had to go and give evidence. The nice police man had told me I would do. But the letter, the letter only goes and tells me I had to go to t’other court. You know, the one three buses away.
“The local one, the one in town, well they’ve only gone and shut it down. Do you know Joan? You do, you do know Joan….. Joan, with the funny looking eyebrows? Got a son…
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Jan Zeber graduated in law in 2014 from the University of Bristol, where he chaired the Freedom Society. He is now a Researcher at the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
Research last year showed that the Government wastes £120 billion a year – it’s that stark fact that has made cutting waste such a crucial part of any campaign for lower taxes. That means cracking down on all sorts of spending and the functions of government that aren’t crucial to a properly-run country – but access to justice should not be in that category. Sadly, with legal aid cuts, politics might have trumped pragmatism.
Empowering people against the might of the authorities is a task that we at the TaxPayers’ Alliance share with the Criminal Bar, and other branches of the legal profession that rely on legal aid. In contrast to molly-coddled public sector bureaucrats enjoying “flexi-time” hours and cosy pensions, letting a junior barrister make a modest living by ensuring justice is served to those who stand accused of crime, are embroiled in child custody battles or were unfairly treated by the machine of the public administration (working seven days a week with no other benefits, I might add) seems like the proper way to spend taxpayers’ money. The right to access justice is a fundamental one.
Nevertheless, when in 2010 it was decided that the Ministry of Justice should bear its share of cuts, the £2 billion legal aid budget was not protected. Ken Clarke, then Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, was charged with delivering £2 billion (about 22 per cent) worth of savings from his department.
His plans showed that there were, and still are, areas to find savings in the Ministry of Justice. First in the line of fire, quite rightly, was the slack in MoJ governance – reducing the number of and streamlining the department’s quangos, restricting recruitment to key posts and scaling back consultancy engagement. Underused county and magistrates courts were also asked to contribute. But as close scrutiny by the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee revealed, a worryingly large proportion of proposed savings look dubious not just in terms of justice, but also whether they are savings at all – many are expected to cause higher costs elsewhere.
Legal aid is a particularly stark example. The rise of litigants in person, that is people involved in court proceedings who do not have legal representation due to funding not being available, causes costly delays to a process which can hardly be described as justice. Further, given that legal aid is mainly used for areas of law which affect public services such as clinical negligence, social welfare, family law and of course criminal law, any creaks in the machine caused by reduced funding will have a knock-on effect on the cost of these services. It is estimated, for example, that the NHS may shoulder £3 for every £1 slashed of the clinical negligence legal aid budget, as part of a total of £193 million of unintended costs in other sectors, throwing up serious questions over the MoJ ‘savings’.
Instead of exerting further pressure on the functioning of the justice system, already stretched to the limits of legitimacy, the incumbent Justice Secretary should consider making savings in areas which, if scaled back, will prompt innovation and streamline the system.
In the criminal division, aside from overall better management of the system in order to reduce cases with unnecessary delays, there is scope for greater use of magistrates’ courts, especially if we allowed Justices of the Peace to hand down more severe sentences. A Justice of the Peace is a volunteer, and an average magistrates’ court case costs £3,000 less than exactly the same case would cost in the crown court. Many less serious white-collar crimes could be taken out of the courts altogether and be dealt with as a regulatory matter, the punishment being disqualification as a director, for example.
What often is missing from this debate is an emphasis on the need for all parties to accept that the times they are a-changin’. There are good reasons for opposing too much streamlining and being weary of ‘conveyor-belt justice’, but the least that is expected from the legal profession is co-operation in finding the best route forward. As the High Court found two months ago as a result of a legal challenge to the consultation process, ‘something clearly did go wrong’.
Whether the Government chose to omit representations from criminal legal aid lawyers on crucial issues because they knew they would not like what they heard, or because they knew what they hear will not be helpful and co-operative, remains unclear. But it does show that both parties would do well to look past prejudice and vested interest, and start thinking about what is best for the general public.
Much has been written over the last few weeks about The Survey, The Ballot and The Misunderstanding, not to mention previous debates about The Deal and quite rightly, different views have been expressed, particularly across the Social Media.
Perhaps some will be greatly relieved that I am not going to repeat in any great depth what has been said, although I particularly commend the recent posts by the respected and intellectually independent journalist @JackofKent
I must begin by putting a few statistical records straight.
When Michael Gove attempted to undermine the turnout of The Ballot and therefore the ‘YES’ vote I expected the CBA to put him right. When the membership voted to accept The Deal the turnout was 1878 and Nigel Lithman, the then Chair of the CBA understandably used it as a decisive mandate to accept The Deal. The Survey which the CBA described in a Tweet on…
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These are very difficult times for that part of the legal profession that does criminal work paid for under the legal aid scheme. Relentless cuts followed by existential threats such as two tier contracts has left many with frayed nerves. On one level there has been unprecedented unity with recent meetings involved not just the CLSA and LCCSA but even the much maligned Big Firm Group (BFG) as well as the CBA.
During my campaign for the CBA Vice-Chair I argued that we badly needed unity around a common set of demands that barristers and solicitors could put to the MoJ together. I accept this isn’t easy. Different groups have different priorities and not everyone seems to share the same desired outcomes. It was a major coup to get the BFG on board in the current dispute because it has long been assumed that in general terms at least they…
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