Legal Aid

Legal aid reforms 'will save ?100m'

PUBLISHED July 13, 2006

Proposals to save ?100 million a year from the criminal Legal Aid budget have been set out.

Government trouble-shooter Lord Carter of Coles published recommendations for fundamental reform of the way legal advice is paid for by the taxpayer in England and Wales.

Radical changes to the way solicitors and barristers are paid should come in from next April, he said. His set of 62 recommendations will strip ?100m from the rapidly expanding criminal Legal Aid spend, so it can be redirected to cash-starved civil and family work.

Lord Carter's report said the moves would reduce criminal Legal Aid spending by more than 20% in real terms over the next four years.

"The procurement reforms should, if executed properly, deliver the long desired cost control in Legal Aid," it said.

"Without these new procurement reforms, the same sort of price inflation seen in the past decade would more than likely be repeated in the future."

Lord Carter had previously announced controversial plans to pay solicitors by fixed fees, and forcing them to bid for work in police stations.

Thursday's document said that barristers in the Crown Court bill would no longer be paid on a case-by-case basis.

Instead a graduated fee scheme would be introduced.

The Government is due to publish a consultation paper setting out its proposals based on Lord Carter's recommendations.