The Legal Aid Board (LAB) has been accused of riding rough-shod over the consultation process on legal aid reform.
President of the Law Society Charles Elly says the board has “endangered its political neutrality by acting as a cheerleader for controversial ministerial ideas”.
Elly's criticisms follow LAB recruitment advertisements which assume that block contracts will be introduced.
The advertisements, which have appeared in both the national and legal press, boldly state that the Lord Chancellor is looking to target the most deserving cases. “The means to achieve this will be through block funded contracts for providing advice, assistance and representation.”
Richard Collins, the board's planning manager, concedes that block-funding will only be introduced “subject to consultation”. But given the chance, the board would not re-word the advertisement, he says.
“Like any other organisation we have to have an eye for the future. We cannot exist in a vacuum,” says Collins.