Fury at 'inaccurate' LAB pilot feedback

Criminal law firm Tuckers' business manager Brian Craig has criticised the Legal Aid Board (LAB) for sending firms participating in the criminal law block contracting pilot “inaccurate” feedback, owing to computing problems.

The LAB sent participating firms its first progress report on the pilot last week – almost five months after the scheme started in June.

However, the London area office has suffered delays in the processing of the forms, owing to the implementation of LAB's new computing system, the Corporate Information System (CIS). The London office went live with CIS on 17 November.

Craig said: “The contracting forms are not being processed on time and as a result the feedback we are receiving is totally inaccurate in terms of the amount of work we do, because it is out of date.”

Craig added: “We are already almost halfway through the first year of the pilot, yet we are receiving progress reports which are absolutely meaningless.”

Craig stated that the delays had not affected Tuckers' payments from the board.

The Lawyer understands the LAB instructed its staff to keep quiet about any problems experienced during the implementation of the CIS system, but that the London LAB office is facing a 10-week backlog of criminal contract report forms as a result of teething problems with the computers and staff training requirements.

An LAB spokesman said: “This is a one-off problem because staff were concentrating on ensuring the successful implementation of the CIS. The next set of reports are due to be issued in January and we expect these to be fully up to date.”

The Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG) warned LAB chief executive Steve Orchard of “chaos” in the London office when it introduced the CIS, as reported in The Lawyer (3 November).

This prompted Orchard to retort sharply that the LAPG's claims were “gross exaggerations”. Orchard claimed the LAB's computing systems needed to be replaced by 1 January 1999, because they were not millennium compliant.