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Society calls for further cut as Commission proposes standstill levies

25 January 2010

The Law Society of Scotland has called for a cut in the levy to be charged by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) for its next financial year, despite the Commission proposing a standstill scheme of charges in its draft budget, published today.

Although the SLCC's proposed budget for 2010-11 is £145,000 lower than this year at £2,839,336, the complaints body has put forward an unchanged standard levy of £275 for solicitors with more than three years' experience.

More recently qualified solicitors would continue to pay half that rate, or £138, and in-house solicitors one third or £91. The rate for advocates would also be unchanged at £223.

Additional categories have been added to bring in-house conveyancing and executry practitioners in line with in-house solicitors, and to include members of the Association of Commercial Attorneys, who will also pay a £91 levy.

Stabilising

SLCC Chair Jane Irvine said: “The board is keen that levies collected from the legal profession do not change dramatically from year to year.

“Taking this and the economic downturn into account, we have decided to use SLCC reserves to stabilise the levy fee at a time when there is a reduction in the number of practising legal professionals, which of course, means fewer levies to be collected by the professional bodies."

She added that although the budget calculations needed to factor in running costs of up to six months, the SLCC's underspend had enabled the overall budget to be reduced by over £145,000.

Lorna Jack, Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, said the SLCC’s budget should reflect what was happening more widely in the economy, particularly given the financial difficulties solicitors had faced during the recession, and reflect the level of complaints the SLCC was currently handling, and expected to handle in the forthcoming year.

She commented: “At a time when solicitors are having to make tough decisions about their businesses and the Society has reduced the cost of the practising certificate by £100, it is vital that the SLCC offers value for money.

“The SLCC’s proposed budget would indicate that they have more than sufficient funding to reduce the financial burden on solicitors and still run the operation effectively."

Reserves "excessive"

Ms Jack pointed out that when the SLCC was planning its 2009-10 budget, the Society maintained that the levy on solicitors was too high and would lead to excessive reserves. "Having now seen the proposed budget (including reserves to cover six months' operational costs), it seems we were justified in our view and we will continue to press for a reduced levy on our members this year.

“The SLCC has said that it will consult with the professional bodies over its proposed budget and levies payable by the profession, and we are encouraging solicitors to contact us to allow us to represent their views.”

The SLCC's case fees are unchanged but the Commission proposes to give itelf more discretion when and how the complaints levy is charged, with the maximum set at the relevant levy banding.

This would mean that if a solicitor has tried to resolve a complaint, the SLCC could waive or reduce the case fee, a concession welcomed by the Society.

Both the Society and the Commission encourage submissions from solicitors on the Commission's draft budget for next year. The Society asks that those to it are made by 17 February, to rlt@lawscot.org.uk .

 

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