Bridget Phillipson Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South
There may be a new Parliament and a new government, but when it comes to the Ministry of Justice committing to build a new Sunderland Centre for Justice nothing has changed.
For the last five years together with Julie Elliott MP I have been pressing government ministers to indicate when, or even if, a decision will be made to start the rebuild.
Time and time again our questions have been dodged and deflected. It became clear over the last Parliament that the government had allocated no resources to its rebuilding programme and ministers had made no progress in five years. A plan with no resources is no plan at all.
This dither and delay can’t go on. Sunderland’s magistrates court is over 100 years old and is no longer fit for either the victims of crime or those working there.
I started to campaign on this issue after the closure of Houghton Magistrates Court, which was a big disappointment for local people. It was closed on the understanding that a new modern courts complex was to be built in Sunderland. The Ministry of Justice spent £2 million of our money buying land and drawing up plans for a new Sunderland Justice Centre at Farringdon Row adjacent to the Vaux site, but nothing has happened for years.
It’s high time the government came clean on this. If the courts are not rebuilt then £2 million of taxpayer money will have been wasted. Years of uncertainty over the future of the site have already significantly affected the city. And until the government makes up its mind about what to do, no progress can be made.
A new Centre for Justice is a vital part of plans to regenerate the city centre and to create jobs for our area. The government keeps talking up the so-called Northern Powerhouse but we still don’t get our fair share of infrastructure investment. Local people deserve better from a government that is failing Sunderland and failing the north east.