Categorized | Law Updates, Legal Aid

Liverpool Roadshow

Liverpool Roadshow

50 lawyers in Liverpool last Friday evening left Law Society representatives in no doubt about their preferred approach to the MoJ’s ‘Transforming Legal Aid’ consultation exercise.

The event was the latest in the Society’s roadshow programme, sponsored by iLaw, to meet with practitioners to discuss current issues and to canvass views. After opening remarks from Richard Atkinson, Tim Hill gave a presentation on digital working, which will be a necessary prerequisite for any PCT contracts.

Then Mark Stubbs spoke on PCT, seeking advice on how to respond to the MoJ’s “outrageous, appalling proposals” in the current consultation exercise. He said the Society’s position was that nobody could make the proposed system work and that the time frame was unachievable. The proposal on client choice was potentially illegal and the proposals should not progress. The Society is building a consensus, with the Bar being most supportive. But he accepted that the present system was “not great”, and that savings had to be made.

The first question from the floor was “why are you waving the white flag?” The proposals should be “opposed in every possible way.” There were calls to withdraw labour and “bring the system to its knees – the government couldn’t bring in the army or the police.” Solicitors had been a soft touch in the past. The Society’s attitude should be to “go the whole way with utmost determination,” not “we surrender, what do you want.” “We’ve already had a massive pay cut.” The Society seems to have failed to recognise the very real struggles and “should stick up for its members.” “It is not for us to do the Government’s dirty work for them.” The Society should conduct a national ballot on strike action.

Mark Stubbs said that the Society was not conceding that cuts should be made and warned of the dangers of strike action. Breach of competition actions could result in very hefty fines. The response from the floor was that the Bar had stood up to the government – their action continues – and they have escaped PCT despite Grayling’s crude threats at a recent meeting. Tough responses on behalf of CPS staff had been successful in the past. The importance of first class PR was stressed.

The general opinion was that nobody could make the proposed system work, not even Eddie Stobart. There was a belief that savings of £220m had been made already, and the call was for a freedom of information enquiry to establish the latest figures.

Not everybody spoke but it was significant that no speaker contested the need for militant action. Mark Stubbs promised to take back all the points raised for urgent consideration. But the last word from the floor was that they were “angry, disappointed – and frightened.”

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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