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Kenneth Clarke To Slash Legal Aid Budget

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/7895199/Kenneth-Clarke-to-slash-Legal-Aid-budget.html

Officials working for Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, have drawn up plans to cut “hundreds of millions” of pounds from the £2.2 billion budget for Legal Aid.

The plan is among blueprints for cuts in public spending worth more than £40 billion handed to the Treasury.

Whitehall departments yesterday submitted plans for deep spending cuts that will lead to many public services being scaled back or even scrapped.

The Whitehall cuts could amount to £32 billion over four years. Spending in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could be cut by another £12.

David Cameron admitted yesterday that voters are “worried” about the scale and impact of the cuts, but insisted they were necessary to ensure Britain’s long-term economic stability.

He said: “Everyone is worried about cuts. I'm not doing this because I want to. I'm doing this because I have to. The last Government left a huge mess, a big black hole of debt and deficit and we’re having to take the steps to get the country back on track again.”

Departmental budgets for the four years from 2011 will be set in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in October.

To prepare for that settlement, Cabinet ministers yesterday submitted their “initial plans” for spending cuts. Most were told to draw up provisional plans for cuts ranging from 25 per cent to 40 per cent of their budgets.

Mr Clarke, a former chancellor, is said to have embraced the cuts process enthusiastically and is keen to take a seat on the Public Expenditure committee that will oversee the CSR.

The Ministry of Justice budget is £8.7 billion this year.

Around £4 billion is spent on prisons and the probation service, but Mr Clarke has signalled that the prisons budget will be cut by less than 25 per cent, meaning he is looking for larger cuts elsewhere in his ministry.

That has put the focus on Legal Aid, which will cost taxpayers £2.2 billion this year.

Mr Clarke’s plan to cut his budget by 25 per cent is understood to set out significant cuts in the legal aid, which he has described as the most expensive such scheme in the world. “The plans are just brutal,” said one source.

One option would be to restrict funds available for people seeking judicial reviews and other late-stage challenges in immigration cases.

The total cost of legal aid for immigration and asylum cases in 2009/10 was £90 million.

New curbs are also likely on fees paid to barristers in criminal cases. Currently, half of all criminal legal aid spending goes on around 1 per cent of major, complex cases.

Legal aid for divorce proceedings may also be vulnerable. In the last 12 months, 89,000 people claimed legal aid for divorce cases, costing taxpayers £25 million.

Mr Clarke has also signalled that he is considering plans to make people take out private insurance policies against the possible costs of legal action.

The process of agreeing cuts is causing tensions between ministers and departments. [/b]

Why on earth should divorce proceedings be eligible for legal aid?

And then we see that everyone is going to need insurance for legal cases.... Another way for the govt to raise tax revenues, perhaps they should make it like car insurance illegal for you not to have it.

Still

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/7895199/Kenneth-Clarke-to-slash-Legal-Aid-budget.html

Why on earth should divorce proceedings be eligible for legal aid?

And then we see that everyone is going to need insurance for legal cases.... Another way for the govt to raise tax revenues, perhaps they should make it like car insurance illegal for you not to have it.

Still

Legal Aid - easy to cut and the press like to cast it as a gravy train. However, I do know that spending on Criminal Legal Aid has fallen since fallen in actual nominal amounts since at least 2003 and in 'real terms' the rates received by solicitors have in almost all matters not increased for 15 years! Firms that do this are in many cases living hand to mouth, have virtually no support staff anymore and cramped offices sometimes sharing desks. If they employ solicitors in this field there is no profit margin yet they take the commercial risk. The wages are generally very poor for all legal aid with many firms running large overdrafts and every so often they go bust. An example is Liverpool where 6 firms of solicitors have gone bust in the last year - 5 of them legal aid firms. There are cases of this in every region.

Now, as I see it, the Govt has not asked a single public servant to take a nominal pay cut, but a mere freeze. Yet they are apparently expecting solicitors to somehow withstand substantial cuts to their available chargeable work and incomes. It is not something they can just replace with private work suddenly. On the other hand prison spending has risen enormously. The cost of prisons is quite eye popping being £28k pa per prisoner.

For divorce, you will need to retain legal aid for those unable to pay and where children are involved I imagine. It's can be a complex matter not always sorted out easily!

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There should be a surcharge on the legal fees paid by businesses, both private and public sector. The surcharge to be paid into the Legal Aid budget.

By making legal services more expensive for larger organisations it will encourage them to seek alternative means of settling disputes

instead of waving a cheque book.

Public sector legal costs need to be declared in their accounts so we can see what they are doing.

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http://www.telegraph...Aid-budget.html

Why on earth should divorce proceedings be eligible for legal aid?

And then we see that everyone is going to need insurance for legal cases.... Another way for the govt to raise tax revenues, perhaps they should make it like car insurance illegal for you not to have it.

Still

I'd rather divorces qualified rather than immigrants claiming it to gain entry to UK, or suing us on human rights grounds. Any chance of top lawyers (like Clarke) getting a substantial hair cut? I doubt it.

Edited by SirStirlingSlumlord

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Legal aid is much like housing benefit: a taxpayer-funded trough for a parasitic class to feed at, channeled through the needy.

They should also introduce a proportionality test. Take the unlimited liability for someone else's legal costs out of the system, by capping what can be claimed for. That really would hit hard at the parasites, so you can be sure their mates in Sir Humphrey's line of work would ensure the legislation was filled with weasel-holes.

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There should be a surcharge on the legal fees paid by businesses, both private and public sector. The surcharge to be paid into the Legal Aid budget.

By making legal services more expensive for larger organisations it will encourage them to seek alternative means of settling disputes

instead of waving a cheque book.

Public sector legal costs need to be declared in their accounts so we can see what they are doing.

Bad idea. You'd be feeding a whole class of parasites (think "ambulance chasers") who go after big organisations like the NHS, schools or councils on (often) frivolous grounds, in the expectation that they'll pay up through fear of legal costs. They already hold the taxpayer to ransom, and you want to give them a bigger weapon!

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Bad idea. You'd be feeding a whole class of parasites (think "ambulance chasers") who go after big organisations like the NHS, schools or councils on (often) frivolous grounds, in the expectation that they'll pay up through fear of legal costs. They already hold the taxpayer to ransom, and you want to give them a bigger weapon!

I disagree. The big organisations routinely spend and in the public sector it is our money, huge amounts on legal services.

They cannot dare to be seen to lose. It would affect someone's bonus.

The private sector has bottom-line incentives to be pragmatic.

I am arguing for more use of ACAS and other dispute resolution means outside the courts.

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I disagree. The big organisations routinely spend and in the public sector it is our money, huge amounts on legal services.

They cannot dare to be seen to lose. It would affect someone's bonus.

The private sector has bottom-line incentives to be pragmatic.

I am arguing for more use of ACAS and other dispute resolution means outside the courts.

Wrong!

If someone takes you to court, you don't have the option of other means of dispute resolution.

The threat of being taken to court is a weapon of terror, and causes many organisations to settle out of court, even when the case against them is feeble. Huge cost to taxpayers (and to the economy, when it hurts a small company).

It's a protection racket: pay up or we hit you with unlimited liability! And you're proposing to hand the Mafia a bigger weapon!

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Again another disaster, you can't find legal practices aid at the moment this will deny the poorest justice. Get arrested for something you didn't do then this policy will mean you are going to prison. Look at America, where the rich and guilty walk yet the prisons are packed full of innocent

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Legal aid is much like housing benefit: a taxpayer-funded trough for a parasitic class to feed at, channeled through the needy.

They should also introduce a proportionality test. Take the unlimited liability for someone else's legal costs out of the system, by capping what can be claimed for. That really would hit hard at the parasites, so you can be sure their mates in Sir Humphrey's line of work would ensure the legislation was filled with weasel-holes.

There already are caps and fixed payments at every turn in the legal aid system. The biggest problem is massive, 'last for months' fraud cases which cost too much. A very few Barristers make too much on these which are then 'misreported' as cases costing millions - and that's rarely true.

The ambulance chasers porca miseria refers to do not exist in this country as it's illegal to actually chase ambulances here. Those that work in personal injury do not access public funds, but seek compensation for their clients from Insurance companies. There is no legal aid for personal injury.

Clearly there is a lot of misinformation about!!

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Guest sillybear2

There's a kind of symmetry in this, Clarke said they're not going to send as many people to jail, so less dosh for legal aid too :lol:

The ambulance chasers are driving up costs in other areas :-

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1255178/Car-insurance-premiums-rise-12-year--safest-drivers.html

http://mycarinsurance-online.info/car-insurance/car-insurance-premiums-leading-to-uk-inflation

Edited by sillybear2

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rather than cut legal aid, he could cap costs for legal people to £100 per hour.

£10,000 per day is just too much.

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Guest sillybear2

rather than cut legal aid, he could cap costs for legal people to £100 per hour.

£10,000 per day is just too much.

Or take the B&Q approach and introduce DIY LAW, your defence could be manufactured in a Mumbai call center.

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Or take the B&Q approach and introduce DIY LAW, your defence could be manufactured in a Mumbai call center.

Why not. Much of the "clever" stuff is a perversion of the INTENT of law.

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rather than cut legal aid, he could cap costs for legal people to £100 per hour.

£10,000 per day is just too much.

:D No such thing as £10,000 per day on legal aid!! Most of it is fixed payments and do not amount to £100 ph either. Lots for less than half that and even then it's before the cost of running the office, insurance phones, etc etc. It is very modestly paid already - less than a plumber or electrician will be taking home.

Mr Clarke likes to say too many are in prison and the reoffending rate of those sent there is higher than for those that had community sentences. What he does not seem to realise is that people do not go to prison (except for very serious matters) in almost all cases until a community sentence has been tried and they have failed to carry it out. Therefore reading the stats as Mr Clarke professes is nonsense because of course the reoffenders are those sent to prison - they are those who won't do community sentences properly. If you have someone who keeps coming back to court for more petty cases, you cannot expect the sentence to be more probation or unpaid work etc when they already refused to do it at an earlier time. The prisons are full of East Europeans and other non natives aswell now - a new factor pushing up the prison population by 10's of thousands.

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Guest sillybear2

:D No such thing as £10,000 per day on legal aid!! Most of it is fixed payments and do not amount to £100 ph either. Lots for less than half that and even then it's before the cost of running the office, insurance phones, etc etc. It is very modestly paid already - less than a plumber or electrician will be taking home.

At least those trades actually provide the public with some socially useful utility :P

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OK mr Clever lawyer, what about other help that is commonly refered to as legal aid, but actually isnt called that??:):)

eg Help at Court, or Family Help or Legal Representation.

All forms of Legal Aid, but, as per the split hairs and avoidence of INTENT, one could argue costs are different for these.

BTW, Im a layman so know no facts on this stuff...just what I pick up here.

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OK mr Clever lawyer, what about other help that is commonly refered to as legal aid, but actually isnt called that??:):)

eg Help at Court, or Family Help or Legal Representation.

All forms of Legal Aid, but, as per the split hairs and avoidence of INTENT, one could argue costs are different for these.

BTW, Im a layman so know no facts on this stuff...just what I pick up here.

All publicly funded help will be under the Legal aid budget paid out through the Legal Services Commission.' At court' is only available for some family and some criminal cases - not all of them.

Oh dear Sillybear2. Are you one of those who just wants to believe there is no value in helping people who cannot afford to pay? There used to be great injustice before Legal Aid began. If people think you can just trust the police to be right and everyone charged should plead guilty, or that difficult family and children cases merit no help, then you live in another world to the rest of us.

If you saw how much help was given and often helping with matters for no payment on top, you might change your mind. We tend to find that some people hold your views until they or a member of their family need us, then they realise just how much this assistance is needed.

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Guest sillybear2

Oh dear Sillybear2. Are you one of those who just wants to believe there is no value in helping people who cannot afford to pay? There used to be great injustice before Legal Aid began.

There still is, except it's now perpetrated against tax payers ;)

If you need the government to prop up the price of anything and put a floor under prices then you're charging too much. It's like a very expensive branch of social services. I'm no great fan of paper pushers, the government creates these problems for itself by making a law or setting a fine for everything.

"The government spends £2bn of taxpayers' money a year on publicly funded legal advice. That sum represents, as government ministers have been quick to point out, a greater per capita spend on legal aid than anywhere else in the world."

Edited by sillybear2

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There still is, except it's now perpetrated against tax payers ;)

If you need the government to prop up the price of anything and put a floor under prices then you're charging too much. It's like a very expensive branch of social services. I'm no great fan of paper pushers, the government creates these problems for itself by making a law or setting a fine for everything.

You are right that the last govt created many, in fact thousands of new offences. The pen pushers in this are the Legal services commission who have caused huge amounts of pointless paperwork over it all. If we could stop them then the costs on solicitors would fall and we could make a better system. I will try to get a meeting with Mr Clarke and suggest some sensible plans.

The market for legal aid is not a competition. There is no floor and the rates are set by govt and have been falling for 15 years for most of it. No one will do it for much less than you now get. People will drift away and it could cause chaos in the courts for some matters. I am sure you don't want to see massive injustices arising and we become a third world country without fair trials.

Edited by plummet expert

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There still is, except it's now perpetrated against tax payers ;)

If you need the government to prop up the price of anything and put a floor under prices then you're charging too much. It's like a very expensive branch of social services. I'm no great fan of paper pushers, the government creates these problems for itself by making a law or setting a fine for everything.

"The government spends £2bn of taxpayers' money a year on publicly funded legal advice. That sum represents, as government ministers have been quick to point out, a greater per capita spend on legal aid than anywhere else in the world."

we DO have the most epxensive legal people in the Universe.

those wigs do have to be kept pristine.

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Guest sillybear2

You are right that the last govt created many, in fact hundreds of new offences. The pen pushers in this are the Legal services commission who have caused huge amounts of pointless paperwork over it all. If we could stop them then the costs on solicitors would fall and we could make a better system. I will try to get a meeting with Mr Clarke and suggest some sensible plans.

The market for legal aid is not a competition. There is no floor and the rates are set by govt and have been falling for 15 years for most of it. No one will do it for much less than you now get. People will drift away and it could cause chaos in the courts for some matters. I am sure you don't want to see massive injustices arising and we become a third world country without fair trials.

Yet the work still gets done, everyone always wants more but if every lawyer in the land could genuinely could earn more by working in commercial property (ha) or M&A in The City then logically the legal aid budget would be left unclaimed, but it isn't, ergo it works. Basically you have a cozy cartel that has priced out normal people, so they beg the government for charity in order to maintain the legitimacy of the system and prevent the normal price discovery of the market from working. When questions of greed arise the poor are then used as human shields.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned immigration work, another huge area for boot filling.

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"The government spends £2bn of taxpayers' money a year on publicly funded legal advice. That sum represents, as government ministers have been quick to point out, a greater per capita spend on legal aid than anywhere else in the world."

The problem with this is that it gives the impression there is some massive overspend on legal aid. Unfortunately about half of the criminal legal aid is spent on just 1% of the cases and it needs dealing with. They are huge fraud matters and their treatment in other countries is different. If we take that part away, we actually do the job very cheaply as against say France or Germany where they earn considerably more. But ministers and the public want to hold onto this idea that somehow its a blackhole. Most solicitors do not cause this expenditure but the govt wants to suggest we all cause these costs. We don't! The article above does say that the legal aid budget 'woudn't keep the NHS going for a fortnight'. To be correct, it wouldn't keep it for more than a week. Also you could take alook at how efficient the police are. They are starting scare news on the number of officers they would lose by cuts. It may be tough, no denying it, but there's no mention that they could cut their immense bureaucracy, and perhaps offer to work until they are 60 instead of full pension at 50, then turn up working for the police with a pension and a new pay packt. Police earn more than legal aid solicitors over their working lives.

The Crown Prosecution lawyers almost all earn considerably more than those doing private practice legal aid, will not have any pay cut and have a publicly funded pension.

Edited by plummet expert

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Again another disaster, you can't find legal practices aid at the moment this will deny the poorest justice. Get arrested for something you didn't do then this policy will mean you are going to prison. Look at America, where the rich and guilty walk yet the prisons are packed full of innocent

Not sure about packed full of the innocent, but it doesnt matter, Old Clarky isnt going to send people to prison either.

I also wonder, if like Housing Benefit, legal aid puts an artificial floor under prices.

And except in defense, why arent people expected to find a no win no fee lawyer, if they have such a good case.

Not much experience of the profession myself except for jury duty, in which i was appalled by the bad punctuality and constant breaks the staff demanded. I think we must have spent less than 90 minutes actually hearing the case in the courtroom each day of the 8 hours or so we were in the building.

Obviously better enforcement of recouping all court and prosecution costs from the party at fault would be another issue.

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