LAB did not 'drag heels'

Your report on the Bar's survey of legal aid payments to barristers, "LAB drags its heels over payments", and especially its headline, was misleading (The Lawyer, 9 August 1994).

The Bar survey did not show that the Legal Aid Board "drags its heels over payment". This was not surprising as it was not a survey of the board's performance in paying bills. Indeed, such a survey would be unnecessary as the board monitors its performance in paying bills and publishes details of that performance.

The figures show the speed and efficiency with which the board carries out this work. For example: for civil legal aid bills, the board has this year assessed and paid 80 per cent within five weeks of receipt and 95 per cent within eight weeks; for green form bills the figure is 95 per cent in six weeks.

The Bar's survey was of the proportion of publicly funded "debt" (from both legal aid work and CPS work) to privately funded "debt" carried by a number of chambers. The Bar used the information obtained to raise issues concerning the structure of the current legal aid payment systems – for which the Board is not responsible.

In the light of the report, the Bar said that it wished to address its concerns by discussing with the Lord Chancellor's Department new payment on account arrangements and the increased use of standard fee payment systems.

Richard Collins

Legal Aid Board Policy and Secretariat

85 Gray's Inn Road

London WC1X 8AA