Magic with numbers: How the Government's support for LiPs is not as marvellous as it first appears

Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash

In the altered reality that is modern Britain nothing is ever quite what it seems...

One of the features of this government (and, I suspect, most populist governments) is that it likes to announce that it is spending an apparently large sum of money to 'deal' with a particular problem.

I say 'apparently', because large numbers are, of course, relative. To the ordinary person on the Clapham omnibus, a million pounds is a very large sum of money - the sort of sum that they could only ever dream about. To the average hedge fund manager, however, one million pounds is mere change - sufficient, perhaps, to add a luxury underground bunker to your London mansion.

Thus when the government announced the other day a £3.1 million grant to enhance free legal advice and support for litigants in person ('LiPs'), it no doubt hoped that its target audience of future 'blue wall' voters was impressed. We were told that:

"funding will be provided to not for profit organisations across the country to provide free legal support - ensuring better advice and clear guidance for those without legal representation in court."

and that:

"Crucially, alongside helping litigants in person to understand legal processes and their rights within them, they will also be provided with practical support throughout the duration of proceedings."

Marvellous. £3.1 million - that's a lot of money, isn't it?

The particular problem that this money seeks to address is of course the fact that those on lower incomes cannot afford to pay for legal representation, and are therefore having to represent themselves in court - a severe disadvantage, that has created a two-tier legal system - one for those with money and one for the rest - and even deters many from going to court at all, thus leaving them without a legal remedy.

So who created the problem? Well, that'll be the same government, when they decimated legal aid back in 2013, removing it for most private law family litigants, and cutting £350 million a year from the legal aid budget.

Wait, did I just say "£350 million a year"? Yes, I did.

Hmm. So they're making a one-off payment of £3.1 million to replace funding that was £350 million A YEAR seven years ago, and with inflation would now be over £400 million A YEAR?

Yep, that about sums it up. Chop off the head of your victim, and use a sticking plaster to stem the resulting flow of blood.

That's magic.