Law Society urges legal complaints body to focus on core role
The Law Society of Scotland has urged legal complaints handling body, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), to focus on its statutory core functions following publication of its draft four-year strategy along with its budget and annual plan for 2016/17.
The SLCC’s budget was laid before the Scottish Parliament this week.
The professional body for Scottish solicitors has also expressed concern about the SLCC’s spending plans, describing a proposed budget rise as “excessive”.
Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “We are pleased to see that the SLCC’s draft strategy and its 2016/17 annual plan set out its commitment to bringing about operational improvements and the resolution of cases at an earlier stage.
“The core statutory functions of the SLCC are to act as a gateway for all legal complaints, deal with service complaints and carry out its statutory oversight duties. It is essential that the organisation focuses on these.”
She added: “However looking at the overall picture in both the strategy and the plan for the next year, we are concerned at the seeming lack of the underlying context for the new strategy. We are not clear why the SLCC has prioritised certain areas of work and while we welcome the mention of delivering early resolution of cases, there is little on how it intends to improve its performance in its core complaints handling role.
“We appreciate the need for the SLCC to work in the interests of consumers, as we must also do, but it has to pay equal attention to the legal profession. It is not sufficient to solely focus on building trust among the public, particularly when there is research to show high levels of trust in the legal profession overall and satisfaction in the work they carry out for clients. For the system to work effectively, there must also be a building of trust among the legal profession in the SLCC’s ability to address matters fairly with no bias towards any one side.”
The Law Society was also critical of the proposed budget for the next 12 months which was laid before the Parliament yesterday and has concerns about the future sustainability of SLCC funding levels.
Ms Jack said: “We don’t support the 5.9 per cent budget increase, although it is a marginal decrease from the initial proposal for a 6.8 per cent rise. It seems excessive given the current drive to reduce costs and increase efficiency by many organisations, including ourselves.
“We are concerned that the proposed budget does not appear to be specifically focused on delivering core operational improvements, but is instead being used to fund discretionary areas of work which sit outwith the principal duties of the SLCC.
“The majority of the SLCC’s funding comes from a levy on solicitors. While the budget for this year will use some of the SLCC’s reserves, we question the long term sustainability of the SLCC’s approach. It seems inevitable that solicitors will be expected to fund voluntary and non-core work at the SLCC in future years through further annual increases in the levy.”
“We have set out our concerns in our response to the SLCC’s draft annual plan and budget and hope to have further discussions on this before publication of the SLCC’s final strategy and annual plan.”