Initial fee increase for legal aid solicitors from September
On Thursday 30 June, the government announced it will introduce secondary legislation to increase criminal legal aid fees.
Although some areas will increase by 15%, which is to be welcomed, the across-the-board increase for solicitors announced so far amounts to an increase of 9% when taking into account all areas of criminal legal aid.
“While today’s announcement does at least mean some of the long-fought-for rate rises are locked in, this has to be the floor of funding increases and not the ceiling,” said Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce.
What this means for solicitors
The higher fees will be available to criminal legal aid solicitors from 30 September 2022.
The government has said the following areas will receive a 15% boost:
- magistrates' courts
- police stations
For this package to be sustainable for the profession, the government needs to close the gap between this initial package of 9% and the bare minimum of 15% identified by the independent review published by Sir Christopher Bellamy last year.
This is a make-or-break year for criminal legal aid firms, and unless the government can fully stabilise the criminal legal aid system with the investment it needs, many of them will be making difficult decisions on viability.
This first initial investment takes us only part of the way. There are encouraging signs that the government is listening to the profession’s concerns.
The second stage of this process of reform and investment must show meaningful progress towards a sustainable criminal legal aid scheme.
We’ll continue to lobby the government to ensure our criminal justice system gets the full and proper funding it desperately needs.
Longer-term proposals, including details on the longer-term funding and structural graduated fees schemes reform, are expected to be published in autumn 2022.
We’re keen to continue to work closely with the Ministry of Justice and the Bar on designing an independent advisory board, which would advise the lord chancellor on arrangements for delivering criminal legal aid.