Office for Legal Complaints business plan and budget 2023/24 – Law Society response

The proposals

In November 2022, the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) consulted on its draft one-year strategy, business plan and budget for the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) service for 2023/24.

The plan outlines three priorities for LeO:

  • a commitment to reduce waiting times by employing skilled and motivated people
  • to take further steps towards being efficient and proportionate while maintaining quality and accessibility
  • to develop an understanding of insights stakeholders value and use this to increase LeO’s impact

It’s proposed that these will deliver the OLC’s strategic objectives of:

  • improving LeO’s service to its customers
  • ensuring that improved ways of working and the Scheme Rules will provide the right outcomes in a timely manner
  • working collaboratively to deliver improvements within the legal sector and access to justice

Our view

LeO has made welcome progress in reducing the backlog of cases waiting for investigation in the Pre-Assessment Pool (PAP) particularly in the last six months, and we recognise the progress made in other areas.

However, we remain cautious.

For our confidence levels to rise, LeO must perform consistently to high levels to reduce the PAP and customer journey times to working levels. It also needs to continue to address its HR issues.

We acknowledge the achievement that has resulted from deploying more staff at the front end of the process, producing higher-than-expected closures through early resolution initiatives.

While LeO process efficiencies have begun to make some impact in reducing the PAP, the time taken to resolve cases continues to be a concern – as does the average customer journey times – both of which are at unacceptable levels.

We also have reservations about the forecast figures for closures through to March 2024 and how well equipped LeO is for a possible increase in the demand for its services caused by the UK’s economic downturn.

LeO must continue to prioritise the reduction of the PAP above other activities, which in turn will reduce the customer waiting times for complaints to be resolved.

The OLC is seeking an increase of almost 10% in LeO’s budget, with 8% being applied towards staff pay awards.

We appreciate the challenging economic conditions that a recession, cost-of-living crisis and shortage of skilled labour have placed on all UK businesses. Those stresses are, however, not unique to LeO.

The proposed increase appears to be high particularly when assessed against the financial difficulties that our members face, with certain sections of the profession facing unprecedented pressure and the need to reduce costs.

We’re pleased the OLC and LeO have been receptive to our feedback. We also value the level of engagement and transparency from both organisations.

Next steps

The consultation closed on 14 December 2022.

The OLC will consider responses to the consultation from all stakeholders before deciding whether it wishes to amend its plan before consideration by the Legal Services Board.

Read the full consultation on the LeO website