The Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling MP has been strongly pressed at a meeting in Parliament not to transfer Neath Magistrates Court to Swansea.
A deputation led by Neath MP Peter Hain and including local Magistrates Joanna Jenkins, Carolyn Wheeler, Elizabeth Davis, local solicitor Stephen Harrett and Trade Union representative David Bartlett argued that a much better and more cost-effective solution would be to transfer to the County Court just 300 metres away in Neath .
Mr Hain said: ‘Mr Grayling listened closely and probed our argument which I believe is compelling. Swansea could not cope with the extra work and would be a very difficult and costly option. Residents in our valley villages would find it horrendously difficult to get there by bus or train, taking several hours to travel there and back at a high cost.
Carolyn Wheeler said: ‘Mr Grayling considered the evidence carefully; making very pertinent comments and asking some very detailed questions especially about the possibility of relocating all criminal court work to the County Court in Neath. He confirmed that no decision would be made until the New Year, so this is certainly not case closed’.
Joanna Jenkins said, ‘The 45 minute meeting with Chris Grayling was extremely fruitful. Mr Grayling obviously knew parts of Neath Port Talbot well – it is an area he had visited in the past. We left feeling very encouraged.
‘Neath Port Talbot magistrates would like to thank Peter Hain for organising the meeting, and for launching the petition. They would also like to thank Peter Hain and Dr Hywel Francis MP for tabling written question; some of which, those asking about the cost of the proposal to close Neath Port Talbot Magistrates’ Court and relocate criminal court work to Swansea, remain unanswered.’
Local solicitor Stephen Harrett told the Secretary of State that there would be a significant loss of legal jobs in the town of Neath as solicitors firms would be obliged to close or relocate to Swansea and staff trade union representative David Bartlett said that court staff would incur extra travelling costs, with parking spaces in Swansea either expensive or simply unavailable.
The deputation presented the Secretary of State with the petition to Save Neath Magistrates which called on the plans transfer cases to Swansea Magistrates to be scrapped and garnered 1759 signatures.