Don’t you just love the Tories. Their next election slogan should definitely be ‘The Conservatives – the party that goes on giving’.
Day after day we get to read announcements about their much flaunted austerity drive and where the axe is going to fall next. It’s never-ending.
So far, since they got into power in May, they have hammered sick and disabled people, they have hammered poorer people, they have hammered the Unions, they have hammered lower paid workers, they have hammered children, they have hammered struggling families, they have hammered the health service, they have hammered social housing provision and now they are going to hammer people’s access to justice.
It’s not that they haven’t tried to do this already. They have. They have already increased court fees. They have already reduced eligibility to Legal Aid. They have already put access to justice out of reach for many poorer people. Now they want to go further. Now they want to close ninety-one courts and tribunals. Permanently.
That is something that will really have a negative effect for poorer people.
People who receive welfare benefits have little enough money to support their families to live as it is. How are these people going to be able to afford to travel further to appeal against benefits sanctions? How are sick and disabled people going to afford to to attend Benefits Tribunals? How are people who have practically nothing going to be able to access justice?
They are not.
It’s not going to be the same for everyone though. There is going to be a degree of discrimination based solely on location. People living in the big towns and cities will fare better than their more rural compatriots. People living closer to the courts and tribunals that will still be open should, at least, be able to get to the venues where justice will be dispensed. These people will be able to use public transport. These people, as a last resort, are going to be able to walk. People living in smaller communities, people living in more rural locations, will have less access to public transport and therefore, less access to the legal system. People who cannot afford to run their own vehicle or use private hire vehicles will be further disadvantaged. Sure, if they win their cases, they should be able to claim the money they have spent on transport as part of any costs they are awarded. But that will not help until afterwards. How are people supposed to pay for transport to meet with their legal advisers beforehand? How are people supposed to be able to pay for the transport they need to get to the court building? How are people supposed to be able to pay for the transport they will need every day of a lengthy case? Simple answer, they are not. It is going to be crippling.
By imposing cuts to access to the legal system and the closure of courtroom buildings, in addition to the cuts they have already made, the Conservatives are compounding the misery they are inflicting upon those people who are the least able to take any more.
It can’t go on for much longer. We cannot take any more. We all understand that cuts do need to be made somewhere to reduce the deficit but why does it have to be done so fast? Why does it have to be poorer people who appear to be taking the brunt of it? Why do the people who have the most always seem to be the ones that suffer the least?
Cuts in access to the legal system will impact so heavily on those who are the least able to bear it. The Conservatives need to stop before they go too far. The Conservatives need to stop before they get to the point of no return. The Conservatives need to stop and acknowledge that people have already died because of their cuts. They need to ensure that there are no more deaths. Sick and disabled people, older people, people in receipt of welfare payments all need to continue to have access to the legal system, to tribunal services and to court buildings. The Conservatives need to consider the people they were elected to serve before they go any further and just stop.