Wednesday, July 06, 2005

More Doom and Gloom

The Lord Chancellor has written to the Law Society explaining that he is cutting £130m from the criminal legal aid budget. Apparently he is going to stop enhancement in fraud cases being claimed at 200% of the usual rate of pay. This is perhaps a sensible move in a cost cutting exercise as the money will be cut from the 1% of cases accounting for 50% of the criminal legal aidbudget. Soo where will the £130m of savings be redistributed? The answer is I am not sure at the moment, it will probably go in to the civil legal aid pot, but I am damn sure that it will not be seen again in the criminal legal aid budget.

To add to the doom and gloom the Lord Chancellor has also stated that competitive tendering in London is to go ahead with bids being invited no later than April 2006 and that contracts would be awarded no later than October 2006. This is all rather depressing as there is a concerted effort to pull out the smaller firmin Londonon and let the bigger firms run criminal legal aid cases on the basis that bigger means more efficient.

Personally I cannot see how this timetable can be achieved until the Legal Services Commission announces what the basis for tenders will be and how the tendering system is going to operate. Us criminal solicitors in London are waiting for the Legal Services Commission to publish the summary of responses that it received when it consulted on competitive tendering, and announce what it is going to do with competitive tendering. Perhaps it is the DCA who are going to do that instead of the LSC?- that is what today's announcement seems to be about. Afterall I am very confident that it is not the LSC who are worried about the cost of legal aid as all of these cuts seem to be led by the Treasury.

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