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The Legal Ombudsman has met major objections from the solicitors’ profession in its ongoing consultation for a business plan and budget, which includes a 19% increase in spending.
That would bring its budget to £15.26m for 2021/22, with a predicted increase in 2022/23, to £16.16m.
The Office of Legal Complaints (OLC) had a similar request denied in 2020, and has faced public questions from the Law Society about the rationale for such a request, in light of the hardships being experienced right across the legal profession.
The Law Society president, David Greene, described the spending request as ‘out of step’:
“Like all of us LeO is operating in a challenging environment because of the pandemic but with incomes hit due to the decline in the economy LeO seems out of step to request an increase in resources on this scale. Especially when LeO’s performance over the last year is a real concern, with a steep rise in its backlog and decline in the number of cases closed, even taking into account the impact of the pandemic.’
As with many other industries, the OLC’s activities have been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, in particular with regards to the backlog of unopened cases.
It estimates that 5,000 people are likely to be waiting for an investigation into their complaint to even start by the end of this financial year.
OLC chair Elisabeth Davies said additional resources are required to meet current demand and reduce waiting times, but the Law Society says the OLC business plan lacks detail about how the OLC plans to actually make changes to the way it operates.
The consultation is now closed, and the Legal Services Board will make a decision this spring.