Legal Aid

Carter review racks up ?1.5m

PUBLISHED July 13, 2006

Lord Carter?s review of legal aid procurement has cost the taxpayer ?1.5 million, the Gazette has learned.

The review ? which was originally given a deadline of 31 January by the Lord Chancellor ? is expected to be finally published this week.

A Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) spokesman said the expenditure covered eight full-time members of staff, consulting costs, research by commercial consultancies, and administration. Three members of staff were seconded from the DCA, with one each from the Legal Services Commission and the Crown Prosecution Service. Three support staff were also taken on.

The report is understood to recommend that the government should set up a fund to help ethnic minority and other small firms with the costs of merging. Lord Carter ? who called for fewer, larger suppliers in his interim report on criminal legal aid in February ? is also understood to have taken legal advice on the impact of his proposals on ethnic minority firms.

Sailesh Mehta, chairman of the Society of Asian Lawyers, said the ?1.5 million cost of the review was a ?staggering? amount of money.

Referring to the proposed fund, he added: ?No amount of money is going to help to solve the issue of why ethnic minority firms have grown ? according to market forces ? as small firms, serving their own community. This is make-up to make the proposals attractive, but it won?t do the job.?

A spokeswoman for Lord Carter said he had taken care to ensure that the proposals were in the public interest and had listened to the views of many stakeholders.