FEARS among magistrates court staff that the number of Magistrates Courts Committees (MCC) will be slashed have been confirmed by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine.
He announced an amalgamation programme - reducing the existing 96 MCCs to 86 - in a ministerial statement to the House of Lords last Wednesday.
Lord Irvine said that his first task was to consider the position of the metropolitan MCCs, but that he would shortly be issuing consultation papers proposing the amalgamation of the seven West Midland MCCs and five Merseyside MCCs.
He aims to have the new MCCs up and running by 1 April 1998. It is not yet known when the existing MCCs will be phased out.
His plan goes beyond the previous government's proposal to amalgamate just three of the West Midlands MCCs - Birmingham, Coventry, and Solihull.
Lord Irvine is to write to the chairmen of all the relevant MCCs announcing when the Government intends to launch its consultation and inviting them to submit their own proposals for the amalgamation programme.
He said that the benefits included "reductions in the number of sub-committees, clearer lines of accountability, and administrative efficiencies brought about by a reduction in duplication".