Sir, The Legal Services Commission (LSC) and Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) have listened to what providers said during the consultation on Lord Carter of Coles? recommendations for legal aid procurement (letter, Nov 30). We have adjusted the timing of the schemes as a result, and will now be moving ahead with our plans.
What some critics might call bureaucracy, we call accountability for public funds and quality assurance for vulnerable clients. However, we have introduced, and continue to introduce, new ways of providing these guarantees that are simpler and more efficient for service providers.
Of course, the procurement of legal aid is only part of the story ? we need improved efficiency in the whole system. The LSC will improve the efficiency of the way we administer the legal aid fund by simplifying our own processes, more use of e-business and more remote monitoring of performance. This will achieve savings of ?30 million in administration costs by 2011. The LSC and DCA will also be working with partners across the justice system to ensure, for example, that solicitors do not spend time waiting around unnecessarily at police stations and courts.
All of these reforms will work together to ensure efficiency of the system as a whole. But improving the way we buy legal aid services must play its part. Currently, we have different providers charging us different amounts for the same work. That?s neither fair nor efficient. That is why we are absolutely committed to Lord Carter?s key proposal of implementing fixed and graduated fees as a move towards a market-based approach to buying legal aid services. This is the best way to ensure that legal aid clients will continue to get the help they need because it will put the system on a sustainable financial footing.
Legal Services Commission