More legal aid cuts opposed by Liberal Democrats
The issue of legal aid cuts has been in the headlines a lot over the last couple of months. We recently blogged about the government's U-turn on the legal aid competition plans, but other legal aid plans are still scheduled to go ahead. However, the Liberal Democrats have delivered a very definitive message to the government by saying that they will oppose any future legal aid cuts until the government can prove that there will be no negative effects on the legal system and justice.
The announcement came during the Liberal Democrats’ party conference in Glasgow, where the party suggested that any future changes to the legal aid system be kept in the pending status until it can be proved that the cuts will have no detrimental effect on the legal system.
It is unlikely that this announcement will have any effect on the current cost-cutting policy set out by the government to reduce the legal aid bill by £220 million annually by 2018. It is rather a choice that will have an effect on any future changes and one that may cause controversy within the UK’s coalition.
The impact of legal aid cuts
The plans by the government have been heavily criticised due to the unknown effects they may have on the legal system’s ability to deliver justice, but it has also been criticised for a number of other reasons. These include the reduction in quality of criminal defence work, the number of small legal firms that would go out of business and the issue that vulnerable people would be unable to access justice.
Speaking at the conference, Liberal Democrat member Lord McNally said that while some aspects of the legal aid cuts may not be as damaging as reported, he has a “duty and responsibility on how £1.9 billion of taxpayers’ money is spent”.
However, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice believes that the MoJ cannot be immune to the constant cost cutting that everyone around the country is currently experiencing.
“At around £2bn a year we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world. We cannot close our eyes to the fact legal aid is costing too much and has mushroomed into something far bigger than it was intended to be.”
Competitive fixed price services
With the legal aid cuts and current economic hardships currently gripping the country, many solicitor firms are having to come up with ways of continuing to provide their services to those who were previously entitled to legal aid and now have no means of paying for their services. Many have introduced a selection of competitive fixed price services. For example ‘no win no fee agreement’, damages based fee agreements and agreed fixed fee service for matters like conveyancing and divorce.
We at Fonseca & Partners have previously voiced our concerns about the legal aid cuts and their impact on legal services. If you've suffered a personal injury that was through no fault of your own, please contact us. We will continue to offer all of our clients a professional and accurate service that puts clients’ needs at the forefront of any proceeding.