Vicky Ling and Andrew Otterburn were initially encouraged by the high degree of support amongst practitioners for a further survey to assess the impact of the MoJ’s revised proposals on firms; but unfortunately, this has not yet been reflected in the number of completed questionnaires received.
Some firms think that if they withold information, this will stop the MoJ from going ahead with their plans. This appears misguided, since the Ministry has already undertaken to the Treasury that it will make further savings in the crime budget. It is more likely that, if firms do not participate, the proposals will go ahead without the most up to date information about the impact that cuts in fees and reduced workloads are already having.
The survey will assess the impact on firms of the new ‘own client only’ contracts and express a view on the minimum size of duty and own client contracts.
Anthony Edwards of T V Edwards, former LSC Commissioner and well-known authority on criminal legal aid, has said that in his view the survey results will be critical to making the proposals workable and has agreed to help. One key factor was the absolute confidentiality of the data, which will only be available to Otterburn Consulting. The MoJ will be appointing specialist financial consultants to do some modelling for them; but they will not have access to the data set.
The survey provides firms with a useful tool to help them understand the impact of the proposals on their business – one that has completed it so far commented that it helped them concentrate their minds on what is happening financially and they will be using it as part of their business planning exercise.
The deadline for responses has now been extended to 16 October 2013.