Judges’ lodgings, which are used by High Court Judges when they hear High Court cases outside of London, have had their subscriptions to Sky television services cancelled as part of moves to reduce their budget.
The Ministry of Justice has 15 permanent properties across the country maintained by a team of 27 full-time staff and 22 part-time workers including managers, chefs, housekeepers and cleaners. But the MoJ also leases another 17 premises, including hotels and luxury bed-and-breakfast establishments, which are used when needed.
The Daily Mail in September 2011, revealed figures from a Freedom of Information request which showed that properties in Bristol cost in excess of £2,000 per night.
The MoJ has confirmed that the subscription to Sky has been cancelled at all residences saving a total of £10,000 to take effect from November 2013.
The move has outraged Judges who historically have enjoyed great luxury when they were on circuit hearing cases outside the capital. The High Court Judges were traditionally chauffeur driven to the homes and waited on by staff, but over the years their perks have been reduced. The Judges have described the moves by Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor, as the “thin end of the wedge” and have complained that they will not even be able to watch sport after working all day.
One such Judge told the Times:
“We have had a pay freeze reducing our pay and now this petty imposition by Grayling, again without any consultation. It is the thin end of the wedge — next will be our cars, drinks entertaining and flowers. We must resist this.”
Another judge pointed out that they are required to stay away from home when hearing such cases and are in fact not allowed to return home and that furthermore after hearing such cases are often expected to entertain local officials.
A Judge commented:
“After those guests have gone and I have some time to relax at last, I can no longer watch the cricket or rugby because Grayling’s cancelled the subscription just to save a few pounds,”
The Ministry of Justice is currently reviewing the £5 million annual costs of such lodgings, which also include more basic premises. The lodgings cost tax-payers on average £1,000 a night to run staff including staff such as chefs and housekeepers. It is estimated the premises are empty for two-thirds of the year.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said:
“A decision has been made that subscription channels in lodgings will be cancelled. We will continue to look for ways across the department to deliver value for money.”