Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition’s £350m Legal Aid cuts

Joanna Lumley re-entered the political fray today when she unveiled a campaign calling for government to rethink their proposed cuts to legal aid, reports Will Horwitz.

Joanna Lumley re-entered the political fray today when she unveiled a campaign calling for government to rethink their proposed cuts to legal aid, to coincide with the closing date for submissions to the Ministry of Justice consultation. The campaign, launched by the Law Society, is called “Sound Off For Justice” – soundoffforjustice.org.

The proposals – which Citizen’s Advice claim will leave half a million vulnerable people with complex debt, housing, or benefits issues ineligible for legal aid – have come in for increasing criticism, including today from Kids Company’s Camila Batmanghelidjh, from Labour’s shadow Justice team on this blog, and from Conservative MPs concerned about cuts in their own constituencies.

Helen Grant, Conservative MP for Maidstone, eloquently defended legal aid a couple of weeks ago:

“Since its introduction in 1949, legal aid has sought to provide access to justice for those of limited means and has remained a defining and essential feature of our democracy…

“For some of our most vulnerable people, it is the only sword and shield in their armoury… These proposals could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

The government hopes to save £350m from the legal aid budget, and has concentrated almost all the savings on funding for civil legal aid. Of particular concern to campaigners and local charities is the wholesale removal from scope of many aspects of social welfare advice, including issues with welfare benefits, debt, and employment which affect some of the poorest people in the UK.

The Bar Council today released a report suggesting the proposals could actually end up costing more than they save, as the Ministry of Justice pays for the extra burden on the court system from people trying to represent themselves, and other government departments such as the NHS pick up the tab for the knock-on effects of denying people justice.

This costly cut seems particularly counterintuitive when much of the demand for legal aid is actually created elsewhere in the public sector – a study in Nottingham estimated up to 40 per cent of people’s problems originated in other departments or local authorities.

Reducing errors elsewhere – particularly within the Department for Work and Pensions – would be a fairer way of cutting the bill than denying people access to help. Meanwhile the Law Society have identified other areas (pdf) where they think cuts to the budget could be made, particularly in the bureaucracy of the system.

Interviewed in the Telegraph a few days ago, justice secretary Ken Clarke seemed relaxed about the legal aid cuts, saying:

“Oddly enough, I’m not in as much difficulty as I thought.”

Today, campaigners from the Justice for All coalition – which has grown rapidly to more 2,200 members – sent him ‘I love legal aid’ Valentines cards.

They will hope that as celebrities, legal professionals, ordinary people and MPs from all parties join the escalating clamour against these proposals, Mr Clarke is forced to take notice.

24 Responses to “Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition’s £350m Legal Aid cuts”

  1. subaruoflondon

    RT @leftfootfwd: Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid cuts: http://bit.ly/eI8fhL reports @WillHorwitz

  2. Simon Sayer

    RT @leftfootfwd: Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid cuts: http://bit.ly/eI8fhL reports @WillHorwitz

  3. Mancunian Candidate

    RT @leftfootfwd: Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid cuts: http://bit.ly/eI8fhL reports @WillHorwitz

  4. salardeen

    RT @leftfootfwd: Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid cuts: http://bit.ly/eI8fhL reports @WillHorwitz

  5. twosteps.com

    Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid cuts: The proposals – which Citizen's Advice clai… http://bit.ly/gAIKYA

  6. Sharma Solicitors

    Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid cuts: The campaign, launched by the Law Society, … http://bit.ly/hnytyO

  7. British Citizen

    RT @leftfootfwd: Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid cuts: http://bit.ly/eI8fhL reports @WillHorwitz

  8. Mr. Sensible

    Couldn’t agree more, Will.

    It’s high time Ken Clark sat up and took notice of the damage he could cause for access to justice.

  9. JoshC

    Joanna Lumley!! Christ, Cameron might as well announce the u-turn now and save time.

  10. MyProLaw

    Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid cuts http://bit.ly/erpl5v

  11. Dr Alexander

    Justice and fairness is actually essence of so called “Britishness”, which was greate achievements of real British liberals and ordinary people in centuries, but not a simple gift of any previous regimes… Therefore dismantelment of those achievements will begin era of establishment of such type of regime, which would be very new, extremely “unnatural” and regressive for Britain – with millions of vulnerable people – helpless and hopeless before such regimes… Like it was described before: “First they came for…” Please, don’t allow them to do it to Britain! Justice Must Be For ALL! Hopefully Mr K.Clarke is mistaken about British people, underestimating and misjudging them, like he has done times and times before, especially in his multiple election campaigns. And, by the way, simple knowledge, that there are such wonderful people (lawyers, doctors, other professionals, celebrities and even some MPs), who are prepared and well equipped to fight for Justice For ALL, makes us, ordinary, vulnerable and much less capable to struggle people, to feel much better. Please, carry on, don’t give up and remember: “…we will never surrender…” That leader of past has got it right then and he won public support and admiration of millions, unlike Mr Clarke…

  12. MyProLaw

    Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid … http://bit.ly/i90QiB

  13. David Taylor

    RT @leftfootfwd: Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid cuts http://bit.ly/glqPss = great article by Will Horwitz

  14. Dulcie Fairhurst

    Cuts to Legal Aid a direct attack on most vulnerable & even in terms Tories understand- saving money- it make no sense http://bit.ly/glqPss

  15. nataliebrook

    RT @leftfootfwd: Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid cuts: http://bit.ly/eI8fhL reports @WillHorwitz

  16. Ellie Robinson

    RT @DavidTaylor85: Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid cuts http://bit.ly/glqPss = great article by Will Horwitz

  17. Matthew Rhodes

    RT @EllieCRobinson Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid cuts http://bit.ly/glqPss = great article by Will Horwitz

  18. Ian Rathbone

    Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition’s £350m Legal Aid cuts. Joanna Lumley re-entered the political fray… http://fb.me/zTcQZnXX

  19. lewsosnhs

    RT @leftfootfwd: Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition's £350m Legal Aid cuts: http://bit.ly/eI8fhL reports @WillHorwitz

  20. chris star

    Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition’s £350m Legal Aid cuts…
    http://j.mp/iamETg
    #ukuncut #mar26 #demo2011

  21. ---

    RT @unitonehifi: Growing coalition of opposition to Coalition’s £350m Legal Aid cuts…
    http://j.mp/iamETg
    #ukuncut #mar26 #demo2011

  22. Peter Soar

    “Rights are no use without the mean to enforce them.” – Lord Denning. This self-evident truth has to be repeated again and again as government once again seeks to reduce the means to enforce rights. Legal aid underpins the rule of law; only the very wealthy would have access to the courts if Clarke’s proposals are adopted, discriminating against Middle England and Poverty England. The proposals reveal a disdain for the welfare of ordinary people which ill-becomes any British politician – even a Tory. Peter Soar

  23. genevieve mitchell

    I think it is vital that disadvantaged people have access to properly qualified legal representatives.

  24. Daniel Pitt

    Growing coalition of opposition to #ConDemNation £350m legal aid cuts http://bit.ly/eI8fhL

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