Sir Tim Chessells, chair of the Legal Aid Board:
Claims that the Legal Aid Board is setting the political agenda are “nonsense”. The board is continuing to improve its bureaucratic procedures while its franchising initiative “happens to sit very well with the way legal aid seems to be evolving”. The cost of legal aid, abuses of the Green Form scheme and the ordinary citizen's difficulty in receiving access to justice are worrying.”
Roy Douglas, a criminal lawyer from Bristol-based Douglas & Partners:
The administration of the scheme has improved but it is still too bureaucratic. The board is working hand-in-hand with the Lord Chancellor's Department on the development of policy. It was dishonest over franchising, its leaders are too political and they will probably have to go if there is a change of government.
Roger Smith, director of the Legal Action Group:
“Rather impressed” with the board's record especially its franchising initiative which has set standards which have been followed by both major political parties and the Law Society. The board's ideas have quite properly influenced the Government's reform plans while its plans to publish its own response to the Green Paper should be welcomed.
Andrew Lockley, head of communications at the Law Society and former legal practice director:
The board has been more flexible to deal with than the Lord Chancellor's Department but has tended to overreact to criticism. It hasn't always been sensitive to the need to keep its distance from the Government. Its own management systems still need to be improved.
Jon Lloyd, co-chair of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group:
Franchising is here to stay but only because the fear factor that exclusive contracts may soon be brought in is forcing solicitors to apply. The franchising scheme itself is too bureaucratic and interfering.
Peter Birts QC, chair of the legal aid and fees committee:
On the whole the board has done a very good job since it took over from the Law Society, although in the past consultation over new systems hasn't quite been up to scratch. There is quite a lot of common ground between the Bar and the board over the way forward with legal aid.