The Lord Chancellor is in Birmingham today appealing to firms to allow their businessmen and women employ-ees to take time off to become magistrates.

Lord Falconer said he wanted to see more bright, working people in their 30s and 40s sitting as magistrates - but it depended on the cooperation of employers.

His call for more employed workers to become magistrates comes ahead of a jobs cull of 100 posts across the courts service to recoup half of an £120 million overspend on legal aid.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, will help launch The Employer Toolkit in Birmingham today at St Philips Chambers in Temple Row.

The 'toolkit' draws on schemes already in place at large employers such as accountancy firm KPMG, where staff are allowed additional time off to perform voluntary work in the community.

"We want magistrates to reflect the community which they are helping," said Lord Falconer.

"The vast majority of people of working age are in work.

"One of the great difficulties is 'how do we balance being a magistrate with the job we've got'. Employers and employers' organisations are saying not only does it help the community but the employees get training, they learn teamwork and decision-making."

Senior managers at KPMG are showcasing their leisure bank scheme, which allows employees to spend five hours per month 'giving back' to the community. Employees currently work as school governors, helping children in the classroom learn to read and write and helping the homeless find employment.

So far ten large regional employers have signed up to use the toolkit and set up a policy on magistrate service in their business. These include John Lewis, Land Rover and Wragge and Co.