JONATHAN Evans MP, the new Parliamentary Secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department, has given a controversial description of magistrates courts service funding.
"In spite of the very heavy pressure on running costs, we have managed to maintain the current grant at its baseline level," Evans told delegates at the annual conference of the Central Council of Magistrates Courts Committees.
His statement follows the previous week's LCD settlement of £265.6 million for 1996-97, described as "an increase of nearly 2.5 per cent on the estimated out-turn for the current year".
At first glance, that would be already below the 3.5 per cent inflation average for the year to date, and therefore represents funding increases below the rate of inflation for the second year running.
But, more importantly, calculations show a far more significant shortfall of around £16.8 million over the last two years, the sum needed to have kept pace with inflation since the 1994-95 settlement of £267.9 million.