LAB's "computerisation' plans under fire

SOLICITORS have complained that they face mounting administrative costs under the Legal Aid Board's (LAB) plans to extend a new computerised system, currently going live at offices across the country.

The LAB is forging ahead with the extension of its new Corporate Information System (CIS) despite a series of problems which included the Nottingham office having to give solicitors loans to tide them over as a result of payment delays.

The system is up and running at Nottingham and Chester. Brighton and Reading will follow soon. An LAB spokesman said: "There has been a learning process to go through… this exposed a number of bugs which have had to be fixed – We continue to make emergency payments to solicitors experiencing cashflow problems."

Under the project all forms issued by the LAB are standardised in black and white format and available on disc, via the Internet or in a "masterpack" format which the lawyer then photocopies.

But many solicitors are angry about the extra administrative burden involved in completing a 14-page form, and question whether problems which occurred when the computer was piloted in Nottingham have been solved.

In Brighton, the new forms are compulsory as of 16 March but local solicitors have complained that they only received the new forms last week and have had little time to adapt their office procedures.