Treasurer's reflections on leaving office after three turbulent years
Jamie Millar retires as treasurer of the Law Society of Scotland on 31 May 2009, having been in post since 1 June 2006. Here are some of his thoughts on a turbulent three years for the Law Society of Scotland, the profession and the economy.
July 2006 – baptism of fire. Newly in post as treasurer and the Chief Accountant has retired; the Society posted a loss in 2005; it is on course for an even bigger loss in 2006; it has a cash flow crisis as its cash reserves have been extinguished. The solution – to propose a budget which increases subscriptions by a massive 18%.
September 2006 – the budget presented to the SGM proposes the biggest increase in subscriptions ever. A campaign of engagement with the profession and a policy of openness and transparency emphasising the value of the Society to its members results in the approval of the increase. The membership makes clear that it considers that the Society should not spend money on Drumsheugh Gardens but should relocate to more suitable premises.
September 2007 – with continuing emphasis within the organisation on economies and cost-cutting, a budget is presented which limits the subscription increase to an inflation increase as undertaken at the 2006 SGM.
Late 2007-spring 2008 – A suitable location is identified for the relocation of the Society to modern, fit-for-purpose premises, only to be followed by the worst property crash for years, which results in the proposed relocation being postponed indefinitely.
May 2008 – the fruits of the 2006 budget are reported to the AGM with a substantial surplus which restores the Society’s cash reserves.
September 2008 – the credit crunch is biting; with further great efforts to control costs and to seek economies, and in the optimistic view that the number of practising certificates does not fall by more than 10%, the Society is able to freeze the level of the practising certificate fee.
October 2008 – The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) opens for business and the first levy notices are issued – a major challenge as the SLCC will not handle complaints for service delivered prior to it starting, so the Society has no reduction in its complaints handling obligation and cost overhead.
Spring 2009 – budgeting for 2009-10 begins. The financial challenges of the last three years see the Society better prepared to weather the financial downturn, with strict budgeting regimes in place, cash reserves restored to an adequate level and cash flow well managed. The desire is to deliver a practising certificate fee which brings a material reduction on 2008-09 level, although this is dependent on the number of PC holders. The SLCC levy notices issued in May will give us a meaningful pointer on this. Within the Society, Council and the Executive have continued to seek economies and to cut costs. The need for a strong business case for all expenditure is part of the management mantra within the organisation. The Society’s staff, recognising the hardships being faced by the profession, have agreed a freeze on salaries.
I wish my successor as treasurer every success, and the support which I have enjoyed from the profession for the practising certificate fee proposals which I have submitted during my time in post. I look forward to continuing my involvement as I take up my new position as Vice President of the Society.
- AGM date – 28 May 2009, 2pm at the Sheraton Hotel, Festival Square, Lothian Road, Edinburgh