Legal complaints watchdog to cut lawyers’ levy by five per cent

Legal complaints watchdog to cut lawyers' levy by five per cent

Neil Stevenson

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has announced a five per cent reduction in the levy for solicitors, advocates and commercial attorneys – the second cut to the levy in two years.

The proposed cut in the levy was welcomed by the Law Society of Scotland in its response to the SLCC’s statutory consultation earlier this year.

The SLCC’s budget and planned expenditure, which will be laid before Parliament next month, are slightly up (by less than one per cent), as the SLCC invests in IT and reform which should lead to longer term savings. However, it said two years of lower complaint numbers and further work to improve efficiencies mean this shortfall can be supported from reserves.

SLCC chair Jim Martin said: “The Board was clear that savings from efficiencies should allow a reduction in the levy paid by lawyers, but that investment was also needed in those areas that could lead to greater savings in future. We’re pleased that we have been able to use reserves to support both of those aims this year.

“Otherwise, our budget is entirely focused on delivering efficient and effective complaint handling, in delivering our other statutory duties, including oversight of the professional bodies’ complaint handling and redress processes, and in the support functions that allow us to deliver that work.

“My thanks go to the Board and staff team whose hard work over the past years mean we are in this strong position.”

Mr Martin said the board would also further explore “different models for apportionment of the levy” in advance of next year’s budget.

Neil Stevenson, SLCC CEO, said: “The proposed budget is set to achieve the successful delivery of our core duties – managing complaints and awarding redress, monitoring trends and delivering guidance and best practice support to the sector.

“We noted feedback that projects such as work to reduce our property overhead, streamline IT, or implement a new statutory instrument, expected this year, which should make complaint more efficient, were seen by some as a lack of focus on our core work of complaints, statutory oversight of the professional bodies’ complaints and redress processes, publishing guidance, and trend reporting.

“However, in conversations direct with legal business owners there was greater commercial understanding that if you want savings in cost, these are areas you have to explore.

“Learning from best practice and our own experience over the past two years will help us to shape a new, more efficient and sustainable operating model, with a focus on our people, our IT and our property needs.

“We have a busy and challenging year ahead, but we are ambitious for what we can achieve in terms of improved performance, shaping a new operating model and driving much needed reform.”

Mr Martin added: “I have shared before our great disappointment that the greatest avoidable cost in our system comes from lawyers failing to meet our statutory request to provide the files we need to investigate complaints. The very strong, and supportive statement from the Law Society of Scotland on this issue, which they have described as causing ‘unacceptable delays’ to our ability to deal with complaints, is very welcome.

“We look forward to working with the Society to tackle this issue and we share their stated aim to see significant progress in this area over the year ahead. We will publish in our annual report whether actions have impacted the non-compliance rate.”

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