I witnessed a depressing e-mail exchange between a client and the LAA yesterday. It started as no more than a polite request for some statistical data necessary to consider the PCT proposals and help form a consultation response. This became increasingly tetchy as the Contract Manager repeatedly backhanded the request over the net, “This is an MoJ and NOT a LAA consultation”.

Ultimately the CM did find an MoJ counterpart prepared to respond – perhaps the requested information will follow.

Later came various reports from last nights TLS meeting with the Lord Chancellor.

The connection? Well once upon a time the people writing “consultation” documents resided in a largely independent QUANGO and had some operational understanding about the subject to hand. This might not amount to empathy with their “suppliers”, but they had some insight into the practical consequences of their proposals. For sure this eroded over time but at least you had the feeling they half “got” what being a Legal Aid practitioner involved.

It seems that the MoJ Policy Unit – its bound to be called something like that – has no such background. (I have a “The Thick Of It” inspired image of their early meetings). You could tell that from your first read. This is now being confirmed in all reports of face-to-face encounters with them. The unworkable, dreamed up by the inexperienced.

There now seems almost to be a position which can be sumarised as follows;

I am Lord Chancellor with responsibility for Justice

I care not if this proposal works so long as it makes cuts and I get to look tough flogging “fat cat lawyers”

In fact it probably won’t work, so you had better do my job for me and come up with something better.

About Author: SP

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