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New complaints body to be "much cheaper" than LCS

13 October 2009

The Office for Legal Complaints (OLC), which will handle complaints for all branches of the profession by the end of next year, will be “much cheaper” than the existing Legal Complaints Service, the Law Society believes.

Solicitors each pay a contribution of £281 through the PC fee towards the cost of the LCS. A separate amount, in this year’s record PC fee of £1180, covers the cost of setting up the OLC.

According to the new organisation’s business plan, published last week, the OLC’s first year running costs will be £19.8m, compared to an estimated £30m for the LCS.

Russell Wallman, director of government relations at the Law Society, said the OLC was likely to cost anywhere between a quarter and a third less.

“The procedures followed by the LCS are over-legalistic,” he said. “I am not blaming the board of the LCS, which inherited them.

“There is scope for the OLC to adopt much more streamlined procedures. It will be starting from scratch and can follow the best practice used by other ombudsman schemes.”

Wallman said the Law Society had changed the way it allocated “shared services”, the services and expenses paid for by the society and used by the LCS.

He said this included the amount needed to cover the LCS share of the society’s pensions deficit. Wallman said the cost of “shared services” provided for the LCS this year could be anything up to £12m.

The OLC will be located in Birmingham and it is understood that negotiations on its new building are close to conclusion.

Negotiations are also understood to be taking place on the fate of the 345 staff currently working for the LCS in Leamington Spa, some of whom are likely to join the new organisation.

Under the Legal Services Act, the OLC must be open by December 2010, but secondary legislation is required before the change can take effect.

The new body will have the power to award up to £30,000 in compensation to those whose complaints are upheld, twice the existing limit.

A spokesman for the LCS said the organisation’s budget had been cut to £18.7m for the financial year ending April 2009, from £24m in 2006.

However, he said this did not include the figure for “shared services”, services provided by the Law Society in Chancery Lane.

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