Legal aid reform announcement today

Later today the Lord Chancellor will make a statement in the Commons setting out the next stage in the government’s Transforming Legal Aid proposals. Already published is a letter from him setting out some of what will be announced, and a response to the initial consultation and a further consultation paper is expected.

From what we know so far, it seems:

  • price competitive tendering will not happen
  • Crime fees will be cut by 17.5%, half in 2014 and half in 2015
  • There will be two crime contracts, one allowing unlimited own client work and one allocating duty slots to firms, but breaking the link between individual duty solicitors and slots
  • There will be an independent review of advocacy in crime and work to save costs elsewhere in the system
  • The civil proposals, including removing the right to legal aid in most cases for prisoners, cuts to judicial review, the residence test and cuts to fees for childcare work, seem likely to go ahead as proposed
  • When published, we will post the consultation documents and bring you more detail. But it seems that whatever happens today will not be the end of the matter; there will be more campaigning, more debate and more challenges to come. Whether PCT was ever a serious proposition, or as some have suggested a straw man allowing administrative cuts to be brought in more easily, it has succeeded in uniting all parts of the profession as perhaps never before. And it must be remembered that what will go ahead, even without PCT, will be devastating. It is seriously questionable whether crime and family practitioners can absorb more fee cuts and stay viable. And the civil proposals, largely it seems unchanged, remain a fundamental concern to the rule of law by depriving groups of people of access to the courts no matter how they are treated by the state and others.

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