We’ll cope, says Salford claims centre chief

first_imgManagers at the new county court money claims centre in Salford are confident that it will be able to cope with going fully operational on Monday (19 March) despite a barrage of complaints about its service so far. Manager Jason Latham told the Gazette that the volume of incoming paperwork will rise by 25-30%, but the centre will continue to issue claims within one day of receipt. He said deputy district judges will be working on site every day from 23 March, ensuring a quick turnaround for interlocutory applications and giving advice to the centre’s 205 staff. Latham, who also manages HM Courts & Tribunals Service business centres in Northampton, Loughborough and Leicester, told the Gazette that he and his staff are determined to ‘iron-out’ problems. He said: ‘The complaints represent a tiny fraction of the total volume of work being done.’ Latham pointed to ‘small, but significant’ refinements, such as the ‘Solicitor Service’ rubber stamp that the centre has sent to law firms, so that claims to be issued by solicitors can be identified easily. Having judges on site every day will be a ‘huge step forward’, he said. ‘They will provide a valuable reference point to give clear, consistent and unequivocal direction to staff. They also demonstrate the judiciary’s keenness to work with us to deliver the service,’ he said. The ‘next incremental step forward’ is to be payment by account, which Latham described as ‘virtually a direct debit facility’ to speed up the present practice of enclosing cheques with claim forms. The Salford centre currently receives 1,300-1,500 claims a day. Staff are trained to deal with every stage of the process, from sifting the post to processing claims to customer service enquiries. Some staff have transferred from county courts, others from elsewhere in the civil service while others were recruited locally. The number of claims is expected to increase by more than 25% as county courts in south-west and north-east England and Wales begin sending claim forms to the centre when it goes fully operational. A dedicated Wales unit is in place, with two Welsh speakers in the team and access to translators in north Wales, so that documents can be issued in Welsh and English.last_img