In the Media

Practising levy could 'pay for every law centre in Britain'

PUBLISHED June 7, 2012

Thursday 07 June 2012 by Catherine Baksi

A £25 levy on each solicitor in private practice could pay for every Law Centre in Britain to retain an experienced practitioner, the Law Centres Federation chief has suggested.

The levy on practising certificates was one idea mooted at the LCF's general meeting last week, at which delegates from centres across the country reaffirmed their commitment to fight for survival, despite the impending legal aid cuts.

LCF co-chair Paul im Thurn said the cuts, which will be implemented next April by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, will cut 60% of law centres 'at a stroke'.

But he stressed that the need for legal advice in areas such as debt, housing, social welfare, employment and family law will not go away, and law centres need to find new ways of providing advice to clients.

He told delegates: 'We have to explore every way of doing this, from setting up charging arms, attracting more charitable funding - even a levy on solicitors in private practice.

'If every solicitor contributed £25 on their practising certificate, it would fund an experienced solicitor in every Law Centre in Britain,' he said.

Offering a positive message, co-chair Ruth Hayes said that, despite their straitened circumstances, Law Centres remain at the 'cutting edge' of legal casework and are 'here to stay'.

She cited ground-breaking cases, including Birmingham Law Centre's application to seek a judicial review challenging the legality of the compulsory nature of the UK census.

Hayes said centres are attracting funding from a range of charities to carry out innovative work. With help from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Coventry and Islington law centres will be providing advice to young people with irregular immigration status. Money from the Social Action Fund, meanwhile, has enabled Avon & Bristol Law Centre to extend its legal advice to community groups throughout the south-west.

She said: 'We have to do everything we can to make sure people don't lose access to the advice they need.'