Scottish Legal Complaints Commission budget hits Holyrood. The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, charged with protecting consumers from the Law Society of Scotland's 'massed ranks of crooked lawyers', has finally put its 2009-2010 budget before the Scottish Parliament for approval, revealing a substantial drop in costs from the original budget for the Commission’s first year of operation was £3,493,823 in the Commission's first year of operation, to £2,112,149. for 2009/2010.
The drop in the SLCC's budget took place after a 'consultation' between the law complaints body and the legal profession, which has led to a significant fall in levies demanded of solicitors across Scotland to fund its operation, from a sum of the initially projected £409 payable by each solicitor to £275 for 2009/2010. Members of the Faculty of Advocates will be charged a levy of £223 each for the coming financial year, according to the budget proposals, which can be viewed (in pdf format) here : SLCC 2009/2010 budget
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill gifted lawyers a staggering £2.5 million of taxpayers money to start up the SLCC. It is worth noting that while the commission consulted elements of the legal profession who fund its operation on the budget and scale of fees, along with other operational matters, the SLCC did not consult the Scots public, who via Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, pumped in a staggering £2.5 million of taxpayers money into the 'do nothing' law complaints quango, which has so far done little to reverse public mistrust of Scotland's poor performing and widely viewed as crooked legal profession.
SLCC Chair Jane Irvine. Jane Irvine, the Chair of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission commented on the budget : “The Board of the SLCC carefully considered the representations made by the professional organisations and a number of amendments have been incorporated into the Commission’s final budget.”
“We are fully aware of the repercussions of the economic downturn and the impact it has had upon the legal profession. Consequently, the cost of SLCC recruitment has been reduced from £90,000 to £60,000 which now takes into account the probability of an increased number of high-calibre candidates being available.”
SLCC CEO & former Law Society Committee member Eileen Masterman gets £1,350 per week. High calibre candidates for the SLCC ... where on earth shall such people be found ? from the legal profession perhaps ? and with whopping salaries such as the SLCC’s Chief Executive Eileen Masterman at £1,350 per week and others at the commission on £350 a day, where is all the money going when the commission is sending most complaints it has currently received back to the Law Society for more closed shop whitewashing of complaints against crooked lawyers.
What about the repercussions of the economic downturn on clients, who are now experiencing some of the worst levels of legal fees fraud ever seen where solicitors are sending out extortionate fee notes to clients, of double or triple the amount actually owed, and even demanding payment for non existent work, which so far the SLCC refuse to investigate on the grounds such complaints relate to solicitors work which took place prior to the commission's start of business on 1st October 2008
You can read more about how solicitors across Scotland are committing fraud against clients in demanding false fees here : Lawyers stealing from clients to earn 'double fees' while Law Society looks the other way in vast network of legal aid fraud & embezzlement
Jane Irvine further commented : “The Special Projects and Research budget has also been reduced from £50,000 to £30,000 which will still enable the Commission to take on two major projects during 2009/2010.”
So .. what projects will be axed just because the Law Society populated commission feels its better to subsidise the legal profession than protect consumer rights ? More delays to the Guarantee Fund & Master Policy monitoring ? as I have reported earlier here : Law Society's 'Guarantee Fund' for clients of crooked lawyers revealed as multi million pound masterpiece of claims dodging corruption
So far unaccountable SLCC members 'on the razzle' with expenses. Finally the question of members expenses is explained by Jane Irvine : “Our recent experience has shown that members’ monthly expenses are well below the draft budget figures and to reflect this, expenses have been reduced from £34,000 to £15,000 and the 2008/2009 carry over figure has been amended to £1.4million from £1.168 million which more accurately reflects what the end surplus is likely to be.”
And yet with the millions of pounds of expenses being handed out the first decision the SLCC took was not to investigate any complaint against a lawyer prior to 1st October 2008, after 10 months of meetings at £350 a day each !
However, these same board members of the SLCC threatened to resign if they didn't receive increased perks & insurance cover, which I reported on here : Legal Complaints Commission in crisis amid funds shortage & resignation threats over lack of insurance protection
and then went on to bring the Commission into disrepute, which I reported, along with other media outlets here : MacAskill must clean up law complaints body as members 'booze culture conduct' reflects lack of discipline & will to investigate crooked lawyers
and all the while, the SLCC's board members hadn't even bothered to advance their own code of conduct, which still awaits Justice Secretary MacAskill's signature, over one year on after millions of pounds of taxpayers money was pumped into the commission, as I reported here : MacAskill 'negligent' as revelations show £4.5m Legal Complaints Commission operating with no standards oversight one year on
Law Society of Scotland still not happy with crooked lawyers being charged for complaints. The Law Society of Scotland, ever the protector of dodgy lawyers, rather than the fee paying public’s interests, took a swipe at the SLCC budget, attacking the quango’s huge unnecessary surpluses and failure to reduce the levies required to fund its operations, such as they are …
Lorna Jack, Chief Executive of the Law Society claimed : “The Society has structured its budget for this year to reflect the impact the recession is having on its members. We believe the SLCC should have done likewise and budgeted in order to reduce levy rates and help ease the financial burden on solicitors in the current climate.”
She went on “However we think SLCC’s level of reserves are unnecessarily high given the nature of the organisation, and proposals for salary increases are inappropriate at a time when many organisations, including the Society, have implemented a salary freeze for 2009/10.”
“The Society also expressed concern over the doubling of the case levies which can be imposed on solicitors. We are fully aware of the ‘polluter pays’ principle which underpins these charges but, as no cases have progressed through the full process yet, there is no evidence to justify such a big increase.”
So, business as usual – crooked lawyers get off the hook because the new ‘independent’ SLCC remits most investigations back to the Law Society, who see to it complaints are whitewashed, and who are either bullying the new commission or pulling its strings to avoid giving Scots consumers real protection against Scotland’s poor quality and highly corrupt legal services market, which is so poor, and so corrupt, it puts us on a par with banana republics, and all the while the Justice Secretary Mr MacAskill and the rest of the Scottish Government sit on the sidelines doing nothing …
Is this justice for all Scots who use & require honest, accountable, high quality & trustworthy, legal services ? I think not …