By politics.co.uk staff
Britain's courts could be privatised as part of radical efforts to achieve savings at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), according to a report.
The move could see the Treasury lose its control of the courts, freeing them up for commercial investment in a shift which could save the taxpayer £1 billion, the Times newspaper reported.
Under one possible reform the management of court buildings could be handed to a property company which would become responsible for their running and maintenance.
A separate proposal could see all courts staff switched to the private sector.
MoJ officials dismissed the report the courts could be privatised wholesale, but left open the possibility of limited private sector involvement in a carefully-worded response.
"We have always said we are determined to deliver a courts system that is more effective and efficient and provides improved services for victims and witnesses," a spokesperson said.
"The proposals being considered are not the wholesale privatisation of the courts service. We are committed to the firm, fair and independent administration of justice."
George Osborne told the Today programme the potential privatisation was not a part of the plans being put forward by the spending review.
The MoJ is already going ahead with a consultation exploring other options, including privatising the enforcement and collection of criminal fines and fixed penalties.
The Public and Commercial Services union has warned such a move would see companies adding charges, selling on personal information and intimidating vulnerable people on their doorsteps.