Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Black door, white wash
More than a year ago I signed the 'scrap carter' epetition. Today 10 Downing Street issued the following reply:
"The Government believes that legal aid is a fundamental underpinning of the justice system, enabling access to justice for those who cannot afford to pay for legal advice and representation. This is reflected in the fact that the legal aid system in England and Wales is the best funded in the world. We spend £38 per head of population compared to between £3 and £4 in France and Germany. Even countries with a legal system more like ours spend less; for example, both New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland spend around £8 per head.
The Government was concerned that earlier payment structures for legal aid work are not representing best value either for users of legal aid services or for taxpayers. Moreover, the rise in spending on criminal legal aid has, in the past, prevented us focusing more legal aid resources on people with social welfare or family problems. We have therefore introduced standard fees for a wide range of legal help and representation as part of our duty to provide taxpayers with value for money.
No money is being taken out of civil and family legal aid. The current reforms are about getting best value for money from the legal aid system so that the Government can help as many people as possible within the resources available - so they will result in more, and not fewer, people being able to get help."
All of which sounds wonderful, until you realise that none of the solicitors in your area provide a legal aid service, because it is no longer economic for them to do the work.