Today, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has launched its annual budget and operating plan consultation. This includes proposed levies for the 2019-20 year. Following on themes from the independent review of legal regulation (‘Fit for the Future’), there is a proposal to increase the share of complaint costs borne by legal business owners.
The proposed budget aims to meet a ‘triple challenge’: Firstly, the number of complaints being made to the SLCC has again increased, marking a rise of 22% over the past three years. Secondly, for the last 24 months the SLCC has been consistently and steadily reducing complaint handling times, but there is still more to be done. Finally, these two challenges are being balanced with the SLCC’s mission to deliver a fair service that delivers robust outcomes for practitioners and consumers alike.
The consultation document proposes an increased budget to meet these challenges. If an increase was applied to all levies paid by lawyers, as last year, this would equate to a 9% rise. However, the consultation actually suggests freezing the levy for the majority of the profession, and focussing increased costs on business owners.
Jim Martin, SLCC Chair, commented, “The funding model is fundamentally flawed. This is a multi-million pound industry yet the complaints model is funded, in the main, by levies on individual solicitors, often subsidising their private sector employers. Regulatory reform needs to move to a focus on regulating the business units that provide services to the public and not just individual staff within them.”
“Ultimately business owners set the risk and quality culture in a business, and are accountable for services delivered to the public. Business owners need to meet the cost of complaints about their businesses. In the context of rising complaints, and an ongoing pattern of common issues in certain areas, we are interested in views on whether this is a fairer approach and encourage all sectors of the profession, and the public, to engage in this debate.”
Chief Executive Neil Stevenson added, “Not only is the number of complaints increasing, but individual complaints are becoming longer and more complex to work on. We know that our staff work hard and combined with changes to our process, we have been working through more complaints. However, we cannot stand still and must meet the continuously rising demand. We are keen to explore all options to improve our processes where we can, but will also continue to make the case for new primary legislation to create a better statutory system, and call on the Scottish Government to move rapidly to consult on the recommendations of the recent independent review of legal regulation.”
The budget increases frontline staff, covers the public sector pay deal, invests in IT improvement to aid smarter working, and supports ongoing management change – all aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the SLCC’s work
There is more information on our consultation page.