Spending review once in a generation opportunity for justice system
Solicitors’ leaders today urged ministers to commit to our justice system and use the comprehensive spending review as means to end decades of cuts and crises.
“The legal services sector is worth almost £60 billion (GVA) each year and employs around 552,000 full-time workers,” said Law Society of England and Wales president Simon Davis.
”We urge the government to support our justice system and world-leading legal services sector to ensure they are well equipped with the funding needed to face the challenges of the future.”
Simon Davis was speaking to mark the launch of a new campaign action which will help people raise concerns about the funding of the justice system direct with chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Simon Davis said: “There has never been a more important spending review for our justice system. As we emerge from the coronavirus crisis, the legal services sector have a key role in driving recovery.
“Whether it is through advising on commercial transactions for our largest businesses, facilitating growth in our housing market through the conveyancing process, or supporting individuals to access justice – our sector has continued to demonstrate enormous value to our economy and our society.
“As a result of the pandemic, however, our sector’s future is in question, with our research suggesting that thousands of high street firms may shut within six months because of COVID-19.*
“We need investment – in our courts, new technologies and to secure opportunities for collaboration and trade overseas.
“The justice system must respond to growing demand on services and simultaneously put in place largescale changes to ensure its future sustainability. Failure to do so will mean people having to wait longer for their cases to be heard with the quality of justice declining.
“The significant courts backlog has also limited the judiciary’s ability to dispense justice effectively and speedily.
“This spending review must be used to back our justice system, legal services sector, and provide the funding and support it needs to aid our economic recovery.”
Our asks on law and justice
The Law Society proposes a cross-departmental strategy on law and justice in the government’s spending review.
- The government should provide a dedicated lawtech transformation fund to unlock productivity and support the development of new legal and justice delivery models:
Our work with the LawTech Delivery Panel estimates that £11.2 million a year is required from 2020 to 2023. Some of this funding could be found from existing sources (such as UK Innovate and the Ministry of Justice), although additional funding will also be needed
- Justice spending should be protected, and further investment is needed to ensure the UK’s justice system can operate effectively:
The Ministry of Justice’s budget has fallen by a quarter since 2011. Meanwhile, the backlog of criminal cases in the Crown Court now stands at around 40,000, and huge numbers of people are being deemed ineligible for support by the legal aid means test.
The justice system must simultaneously respond to growing demand on services and put in place large-scale changes to ensure its future sustainability. Failure to do so will mean people having to wait longer for their cases to be heard and the UK’s world-renowned quality of justice declining
- Additional taxes or increased fees and charges on businesses should not be used as revenue generating:
Law firms should be empowered to create new jobs that will provide the backbone of the sector in the long-term, by giving them the flexibility to spend apprenticeship levy money on lawtech seats and training in lawtech skills; training in secondary specialisations; training contracts; and supporting other organisations by funding joint roles.
It is also important to target tax incentives to support employment and stimulate activity in key domestic markets, including a temporary reduction in the VAT standard rate from 20% and an extension to the VAT and income tax deferral schemes to April 2021 to help firms with their cash flow
Notes to editors
* In May, Law Society research found that 71% of high-street firms believe they may have to close their doors within the next six months because of the coronavirus crisis.
The survey was sent to the 7,958 small firms, including sole practitioners.
The results are based on the 774 responses received (10% of small firms). They are defined in this survey and generally as those with four or fewer partners.
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