This has been a year like no other. Every year we consult on a draft budget and operating plan, and make amendments before we publish a final version. This can be in response to changes in our operating environment or comments received from stakeholders. This year, however the changing external context for the SLCC, like many other organisations, has been significant, and we have had to rapidly amend our projections and plans as the consultation took place. We highlighted this approach in our consultation paper, published in January, noting the likelihood of changes to the budget proposal during the consultation period.
Below, we have published the responses we received to our budget and operating plan consultation. We thank those who provided constructive feedback on our plans.
Following detailed discussion at our Board meeting on 23 March 2021, we set out the decisions that have been taken on our global budget and the general levy.
We have now published our full budget, which shows a overall reduction in relation to the draft budget presented for consultation in January. This means we were able to confirm a reduction of 5% in the general levy for all lawyers, and of 20% to the levy charged for all lawyers within their first three years of practice. This further reduction responds to some of the specific challenges we have seen highlighted regarding those early in their careers, and this complements support provided by Scottish Government directed at addressing concerns about lawyers entering the legal services market at this time.
In reaching this decision, the Board took into account key factors, including:
the emerging data on the number of complaints received over the past year and projections for what we might expect to see in the coming year
projected costs, in particular staffing costs which changed during the consultation period due to changes in the Scottish Government Pay Policy which we are subject to
the performance of the business following significant efficiency work over recent years – there are no backlogs, turnaround times are now almost as fast as possible within our statutory framework, and complaints resolved or decided per member of complaints staff has increased
the organisation’s overall financial position, including reserves.
The Board also considered relevant comments from consultation responses. Although we asked specific questions on apportionment of the levy and suggestions for possible cost savings we received no detailed comments on this, beyond headline calls for a reduced budget and levy. The Board also noted that some of the representations made in consultation responses regarding the SLCC’s budget, levy and operational efficiency were based on a misinterpretation of the data, and we have challenged those comments where we felt they were misleading.
The SLCC is funded by a levy on members of the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates and the Association of Commercial Attorneys. Its budget and levy amounts are consulted on and set annually.