The SLCC is an organisation that embraces change and improvement. It’s a core part of our values and culture that we constantly challenge ourselves to do better, to question orthodoxies and to test new approaches. That approach has helped us to make significant improvements to our performance over recent years, making us more efficient, more accessible, and more focused on the things that matter to our customers.
This year we have continued to deliver major multi-year improvement projects as well looking at people, property and IT. These consolidated and built on changes in how we and the sector operated over the last two years which have opened up the opportunity for new and more efficient ways of working. We were delighted to see this improvement work recognised at the Holyrood Public Service Awards this year.
That improvement is only possible because of the continued commitment, creativity and hard work of our staff team, and I record my thanks to them for all the great work they do. I also want to say a special thank you to our Board, who have continued to provide strong leadership through a time of both external and internal change.
The impact of that improvement is felt directly by those who bring complaints to us and by the lawyers complained about – their complaints are being dealt with more swiftly and are more likely to be resolved consensually. That efficiency, coupled with lower numbers of incoming complaints during lockdown periods, meant that the Board was able to reduce the levy which funds our work over the past two years.
As complaints rise again, and with many possible efficiencies now achieved, we can clearly see the remaining key blocks on improvement are those which the SLCC cannot tackle alone. The Scottish Government’s commitment to legislative change is very welcome. That reform must remove the barriers to improvement in our complex regulatory system and create a streamlined complaints system that works efficiently and effectively for all.
This will be my last annual report, as I step down as Chair at the end of 2022. Five years ago, as I took up post, a government-commissioned independent review was considering its recommendations to reform and modernise the statutory framework for the regulation of legal services and complaints handling. Despite the potential implications for the SLCC itself, we have continued to support this aim and to call for action to achieve it. We do that because we see every day the impact of the current system on both consumers and lawyers. We think they deserve better.
I have also flagged specific challenges which add to cost or delay and could be addressed in legislation. These include charging firms based on complaints risk or record, direct access to contact information for lawyers, better insight into first tier complaints (those handled by firms) to allow common causes of complaints to be tackled, and access without delay to files to be able to commence investigations. We continue to hope these are tackled by reform.
The SLCC has worked tirelessly to improve the service it provides, within the legislative restrictions we face. We have worked collaboratively with others to seek interim improvements to those restrictions, although they have proved challenging to deliver. We have taken on additional oversight powers and worked swiftly to ensure they work in practice.
We will continue to innovate and improve, while calling for much needed reform.