The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has laid its budget for 2020-21 before the Scottish Parliament, which includes increase resource to deal with increased complaints.
Chief Executive Neil Stevenson commented, “Over the past few years we have made significant improvements in our efficiency, but each year these have been outstripped by the increased number and complexity of incoming complaints, as well as other costs. Our current prediction is that this trend will continue.”
“Of course, this is a very uncertain time for all of us, and we are acutely aware of the impact of coronavirus on the sector. We will continue to review the situation and are exploring options to reduce cost, to agree flexibility in the collection of the levy, and are proposing a more flexible operating plan for the coming year, to deal with the uncertainty.”
“However, we also have a defined statutory process to run, and complaints are continuing to come in at similar volumes. Our duty to the sector and public is to ensure complaints continue to be processed as required by statute, and business continuity arrangements and online processes mean we are currently able to deliver this almost as normal, while complying with government advice.”
“This budget includes an increase of £4 for the year for in-house lawyers and commercial attorneys, £6 for advocates, £14 for employed solicitors and £17 for principals and partners in private practice.”
“We know any increase is always unwelcome, and particularly so at this time, but the number of complaints has continued to rise and many drivers of cost in our system have been above CPI. We are obliged by law to make sure that the levy is ‘sufficient to meet our expenditure’. This budget will allow us to do this.”
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. The dates for consultation and levy are set by the statute.
Payment of the levy is due to the SLCC on 1 July. However, we were asked if any flexibility could be extended on payment in recognition of the current challenging circumstances. Whilst we are not responsible for collection of the levy, we have offered the professional bodies the opportunity to pay us in two instalments in July and December (subject to a formal agreement), which in turn would allow them consider flexible arrangements around when and how they collect across different branches of the profession.