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Legal aid firms set to work after 1 July ‘will run at a loss’

Lawyers' revolt takes over the regions and reaches the capital

30 June 2015

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Lawyers in Leeds and London will not act in legal aid cases after 1 July, declaring the further 8.75 per cent cut to solicitors' fees 'uneconomic'.

Merseyside, Hull, Birmingham, and Cardiff are reported to have already said they will not be taking on legal aid work, saying the second round of cuts to fees were 'untenable.'

In a statement on the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association (LCCSA) website, LCCSA president Jonathan Black said: 'We have overwhelming support for this action, which regrettably is necessary as a result of the government's intention to implement cuts and the proposed further cuts amounting to over 50 per cent on some cases for January 2016, without carrying out the promised meaningful review.'

Black continued: 'Had the government listened to our representations they would know that these cuts are not only unnecessary but dangerous. We have drafted a protocol, and firms that seek to act in breach of this are letting themselves, their professional colleagues, and their clients down.'

The LCCSA says firms which were not present have indicated their support and that the rest are expected to follow suit. The LCCSA statement said any firm acting for clients at the rates set after 1 July would either be running so at a loss, or not properly representing their client to the appropriate professional standard.

The joint statement of Merseyside solicitors and barristers noted that if the 1 July cut is to be implemented, then solicitors will have sustained a 17.5 per cent cut over a fifteen-month period in a profession that has not seen increase to rates in 20 years.

'Escalation of action'

In Leeds, 19 of the 21 firms on the Leeds duty rota were represented at a meeting to discuss the second round of cuts, where it was agreed no work on a publicly-funded basis would be provided from 1 July.

Their statement read: 'Advice and representation will not be provided in the police station and legal aid funding will not be applied for in respect of any new matter.

'In accordance with the obligations under the 2010 contract, duty solicitor work will be serviced but there will be a further meeting on 8 July 2015 at 1pm to discuss the escalation of action.'

The announcement from the circuit in Leeds said other meetings were due to take place yesterday in Bradford, Huddersfield, and South Yorkshire.

Lawyers in Leeds urged the Lord Chancellor, Michael Gove, to suspend the cuts and review their impact before 'ploughing on through the criminal justice system causing irreversible damage.'

On the Twittersphere, stakeholders were quick to show their support and their dismay over the next round of legal aid cuts:

The whole legal profession should be supporting our friends and colleagues in their fight against #legalaid cuts.

— Steve Cornforth (@SteveCornforth2) June 30, 2015

Breaking, London: overwhelming support in both barrister and solicitor votes for action from 1 July against legal aid cuts.

— Jack of Kent (@JackofKent) June 29, 2015

I'm being told Govt legal aid spend figures include VAT. Is that right? if so, inflated by 20% which comes straight back to HMRC.

— Dinah Rose (@DinahRoseQC) June 30, 2015

Meanwhile, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) will announce tonight whether its members will strike. Their ballot follows condemnation from the LCCSA and Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA) that the CBA had decided not to take direct action against the cuts.

Laura Clenshaw is managing editor of Solicitors Journal 

@SJ_weekly 

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Legal Aid