Four London law centres threatened with closure

Four London law centres providing free legal advice are facing closure after the Association of London Governments (ALG) withdrew their grants

Central London, Hamm-ersmith, North Kensington and Paddington law centres all rely on the ALG – a significant funding body that gives £27m a year to voluntary organisations on behalf of London councils – for up to 50 per cent of their funding.

According to Steve Hynes, director of the Law Centres Federation, without the ALG grants, the four free legal advice centres are likely to lose funding from the Legal Services Commission (LSC), their other main source of revenue.

“The LSC's funding is conditional on the law centres having another source of revenue, in these cases the ALG. However, this is not a three-way thing. While the law centres have agreements with the LSC and with the ALG, the ALG and the LSC have no agreement, meaning either one of them can pull out at any time,” he said.

The Law Centres Federation has been lobbying MPs for the constituencies these law centres are in, including Conservative MP for Kensington and Chelsea Michael Portillo, who was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

Karen Buck, Labour MP for Regents Park and Kensington North, has thrown her weight behind the campaign to keep North Kensington Law Centre open, and is also supporting the campaign for Paddington Law Centre.

All four law centres are supported by City firms through donations and the provision of pro bono legal advice, but Hynes said he would not expect the firms themselves to fund their continuing existence.

“These are essentially public, not-for-profit advice centres and should be run with public, not private, money,” he said.

The ALG has also withdrawn its funding of the Royal Courts of Justice unit for litigants in person, currently run by a handful of City firms.