Legal Aid

Legal aid cuts will cost millions, solicitors say

PUBLISHED October 31, 2011

Savings of up to £350 million to be reaped by cutting the legal aid budget will cost the taxpayer millions more than is saved, the solicitors? professional body claims today.

It accuses the Ministry of Justice of having ?so little data or evidence? to underpin its proposals that there can be ?no confidence that they will be achieved.?

The current Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Billwhich has its third reading this week, contains 15 impact assessments where the Ministry says it does not have evidence to support its position.

?The same impact assessments include 30 admissions by the MoJ that it is speculating on the likely effects of its proposals,? the Law Society says.

Its report, Missing Millions, says that the ministry?s figures are flawed and cost more than they will bring in.

?There is a black hole in the MoJ figures and they simply do not add up,? according to the report. ?The MoJ has also ignored, or denied the existence of, published evidence that contradicts its assumptions.?

One of the most controversial proposals will see legal aid removed from 255,000 family law cases, including child contact and financial agreements.

Yet the ministry is predicting that there will be only some 4,000 to 10,000 extra requests for family mediation a year after the cuts, which family lawyers and judges say will lead to a flood of ?DIY litigants? taking their own cases in court.

No account has been taken of the view of academic researchers and judges that people acting without lawyers cause delays and increase costs and the burden on the courts, the report says.

The report also says that the number of cases that will lose legal aid has risen from 568,000 in the Green Paper last year outlining the cuts to 645,000 in the Bill now before Parliament.

Yet the claimed saving to taxpayers has risen by only £1 million, from £279 million to £280 million.

No explanation has been given for the fact that the saving of the extra cases to be removed from the scheme is under £1.50 each, the society says.

The analysis says that for every £1 of legal aid spending on housing advice, the potential saving to the state is £2.34; for every £1 on debt advice, it is £2.98; for every £1 on benefits it is £8.80 and for every £1 of spending on employment, £7.13.

It says: ?It isn?t too late for the Government to reconsider its cuts to legal aid and look again at the data underpinning its arguments.?.