CEO’s closing remarks
Some are already demonstrably met; we are in a new smaller office, we are working fully from the cloud, a new Board and Chair are recruited and inducted, and our new rules are published and in force.
In others we planned audits before the end of the four-year period, both to give assurance that work was embedded but also to give a final chance for learning and refinement in the coming year based on how systems have performed in practice. These last refinements will be made in the coming year.
Of course, there are some that have taken longer than expected. Our review of how we receive customer feedback moved this from a small project to a fundamental rethink drawing on input from our Consumer Panel, other complaints bodies, and industry. We decided doing this well was better than doing it within the original timeframe, and we now aim to launch it at midnight on the very last day of this strategic period to collect data right from the start of our new business year. That’s about as close to the wire as a project ever gets!
I also said I would return to two themes from my introduction.
The first is the failure of solicitors to comply with statutory requests for access to files. We appreciate the challenges to running a firm, and the personal impact of complaints. However, this is a breach of a legal requirement. Other skilled professionals are prohibited from providing certain services because lawyers are part of a regulated community. If large numbers of solicitors do not comply with regulation, and nothing is done, what argument is there for not liberalising the market and increasing access to justice?
The strategy will see the end of eight years of work by the SLCC to try to tackle this issue, with little impact. Stop gap arrangements have been in place as we tried every means within our control to tackle the issue. With none of these working a long-term solution is needed. This may come from reform, but if not, it may mean resourcing a dedicated team with the capacity to take the volume of court work we need to make sure solicitors comply with their duties. This is the final year in the current strategy to see if progress on this front can be made, and more proportionate solutions found through the combined efforts of the sector.
We also look to the year ahead optimistically in terms of the new Bill. All parties have agreed complaints reform is needed, and we hope the lessons of 2007 and 2010 can be learnt and the Bill is not amended so extensively that arrangements become unworkable. In 2007 it led to a complaints process everyone now agrees is disproportionate, in 2010 it led to a system not yet implemented 14 years later (despite other jurisdictions leaping ahead). We hope new voices are listened to, and practical and proportionate approaches implemented which work for complainers and practitioners, are fair and proportionate, encourage the sharing of learning and the development of practice, and which increase confidence in legal services in Scotland.