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LSC hits back on civil legal aid

23 February 2010

The LSC has hit back over claims that the provision of civil legal aid is running out as the financial year approaches its end.

A survey of 11 legal aid firms and a law centre by the Alliance for Legal Aid found that there were no civil legal aid firms in Blackburn, justice secretary Jack Straw’s constituency, and there were other areas where firms had already run out of matter starts (see Solicitors Journal 154/6, 16 February 2010).

“The survey focuses on a very small number of legal aid providers who have been refused an increase in their case allocation and paints a very misleading picture of the provision of legal aid,” Hugh Barrett, executive director at the LSC, said.

“Given that the Legal Services Commission has 2,613 civil contracts that cover 3,585 offices, it is surprising that the Alliance for Legal Aid only chose to interview 11 solicitor firms and a law centre for their survey and suggest that the results are representative across England and Wales.”

Barrett said that requests from firms to increase case allocation were likely to be refused when other providers had spare capacity.

“All requests to increase case allocations are considered on an individual basis, in light of the overall position within an area,” he said.

Barrett said this financial year had seen the highest ever allocation of new cases. “We anticipate that solicitor firms and not-for-profit agencies will start 1.1million new cases this year,” he said.

“This will be a record amount and almost double the number of new cases started in 2004-05.”

Barrett said the legal help budget for 2009-10 was £200m, a significant increase on the totals of £176m for 2008-09 and £174m 2007-08.

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