Concerns raised over closure of court

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FRIDAY morning was fascinating – I was lucky enough to be given a full tour of both Horsham and Crawley court buildings by several magistrates and a legal adviser, a role that used to be known as court clerk.

I’d suggested a visit following a meeting sometime before Christmas with a local magistrate who wanted to discuss the implications of the planned closure of Haywards Heath courthouse.

As well as seeing the facilities for vulnerable witnesses, a trial in action and the custody, fine collection and admin areas, I was pleased to be able to chat with staff, magistrates and a District Judge.

It’s true to say that they all have concerns about the impact on Horsham and Crawley courts and it’s also true to say that the courthouses are less than state of the art. I’ll be writing to my colleague, Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary, reminding him that both facilities will have to take on more work and really do need considerable improvement and modernisation.

I went on to meet up with the chief executive and chairman of Saxon Weald, Horsham’s largest housing association. They were keen to discuss the implications of the Comprehensive Spending Review for social housing. Up for vigorous debate were our policies on flexible tenancies, fairer allocation, a national Home Swap Scheme, fairer provision for homeless people, affordable rents and new powers for tenants to hold landlords to account.

I was also lucky enough to visit Holbrook Primary School’s new Kids Like Us Club. It’s a breakfast and after school club that caters for over 20 children aged between four and 11. The club is flourishing and will be expanding in September.

My visit showed why it’s so popular – I found passionate staff and a bunch of enthusiastic youngsters playing games, enjoying a fine tea and more than happy to fire questions at a visiting MP!

Last stop was Worth School and a slightly more formal question and answer session. I’d been invited to talk to sixth formers about the role of an MP, the parliamentary process and parliamentary democracy.

As I’ve grown accustomed to with Worth and other schools in my constituency, students had lots of interesting and thought-provoking questions and we had a really good discussion.

It’s a shame that people who are quick to assume that youngsters aren’t interested in politics or current affairs are unable to see events such as this – it’s a joy to engage with young people who are clued up, interested and really wanting to get to the bottom of issues that affect all our lives. I’m already looking forward to my next visit to Worth!

FRANCIS MAUDE

MP for Horsham