PCS signals breakthrough on Common Platform talks – but campaign to scrap IT system will continue

Written by Sam Trendall on 15 March 2023 in News

Members of union encouraged to accept latest offer from HMCTS

Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0

The PCS union’s long-running dispute with HM Courts and Tribunal Service over the Common Platform IT system could soon end, with members encouraged to accept the latest offer to end the dispute.

Even if members approve the offer, however, PCS has indicated that it will continue to campaign for the controversial case-management system to be scrapped.

HMCTS has acknowledged that there are faults within Common Platform and has offered autonomy for legal advisers and court associates in deciding which cases put into the system out of court and, PCS said.

The union said the courts service had also offered assurance that “the HMCTS Common Platform staff blame culture will end” and real action will be taken to combat stress and anxiety caused by the IT system, the union added.

Legal advisers and court associates across the country have held a series of strikes last year over concerns about the technology, with HMCTS pausing the rollout of Common Platform several times in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

The union said it has been in intensive negotiations with HMCTS management and has secured significant concessions which it believes are “sufficient” to end the dispute. PCS said it believes that “this is the best offer that can be arrived at through our negotiations and that further concessions could not be achieved without an escalation of industrial action”. 

Related content

It said the offer will ensure that legal advisers and court associates are “directly involved in combatting issues with Common Platform and holding HMCTS to account on resolving them”.

The union will electronically ballot members on the offer until noon on Tuesday 21 March.

Karen Watts, group assistant secretary for PCS and leader of the campaign said: "Action taken by members has forced HMCTS to acknowledge that Common Platform has been an enormous source of stress in the court room. It has resulted in significant concessions which will deliver protections for members in the workplace and a framework to deliver more.”

PCS also said that, while it was not the motivation for the dispute, 450 associated jobs have now been protected until 2024 as part of the offer.

PCS's concerns about the IT system, which began being rolled out in September 2020, include an “alarming increase in reports of stress and anxiety and long working” since its introduction.

These concerns were echoed in a recent report released by the National Audit Office. The public-spending watchdog said the problems with the unpopular Common Platform digital case-management system are the most concerning part of HMCTS’s £1.3bn transformation programme, and had “put avoidable pressure on the courts at a critical time”.

PCS said it will continue its campaign for Common Platform, which is currently live in 173 courts, to be scrapped, however.

“Nothing in this prevents PCS continuing to campaign for an end to the Common Platform and its significant failings,” the union said. 

PCS also warned that strike action could resume in future, saying it will “reinvoke the dispute” if HMCTS does not deliver on what it has offered.

A HMCTS spokesperson said: “Common Platform is fundamental to modernising the criminal court system – replacing out-of-date systems and freeing up court staff so we can better deliver justice for all. We will continue to work closely with the unions and our staff to support them during the transition.”


About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on sam.trendall@publictechnology.net.

Share this page




Please login to post a comment or register for a free account.

Related Articles

HMPPS begins £4m project to replace ‘outdated’ prisoner data system
13 March 2023

Newly built bespoke platform will process information including daily unlocking lists and activities to reduce recidivism

Research firm brought in to improve assessment of major tech projects
17 March 2023

Government’s Evaluation Task Force has signed a deal with Ipsos to address ‘significant lack of good quality evaluation’

NCSC probes TikTok amid reports of imminent ban of government devices
16 March 2023

Security minister confirms intelligence agency is investigating the video app

Expanded NHS England taps McKinsey to design data and analytics model in £1m deal
15 March 2023

Management consultancy brought in to help shape national body’s use of data

Related Sponsored Articles

Digital transformation – a guide for local government
6 March 2023

Digital transformation will play a key role in the future of local government. David Bemrose, Head of Account Strategy for Local Government at Crown Commercial Service (CCS), introduces a new...