No, it isn’t over yet. The MoJ has issued a consultation on the next round of legal aid cuts, called ‘Transforming Legal Aid’. There are some specific proposals that affect legal aid housing work. Hold on to your chairs…
Residence requirement for funding. 3.4 and 3.5 – to be lawfully resident and to have lawfully resided for 12 months in the past (not necessarily the immediately preceding 12 months). ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ exception and exception for armed forces and asylum seekers (not failed, post appeal asylum seekers).
Judicial Review (and remember devolved powers have been scrapped for JR except for HA 1996 and NAA 1941 cases), so in general there is already a merits test applied by the Legal Aid Agency). 3.69 – 3.78 Providers will only be paid for pre-permission work if permission is granted, though court fees and expert fees would still be paid (and JR issue fee supposedly to rise to £1500). If a claim is settled pre-permission, there will be no legal aid payment, regardless of benefit obtained. Only chance of getting costs is by settlement or court order from the Defendant. Settlement on terms of no order as to costs pre-permission means no payment at all.
Borderline chances of success. 3.86 – 3.87 No funding for borderline cases. Must have at least 50% chances of success, even in cases of overwhelming importance to the client.
Civil (non-family) Unified Advocacy Fee. 6.14 – 6.27 There will be a single rate for advocacy, based on solicitors’ rates.
The standard rates proposed are:
There are ‘enhanced fees’ proposed for ‘complex cases (see annex I – copied in comment below):
Oh and travel and waiting standardised at £29.93 ph (High Court/Upper tribunal) or £26.28 ph (County Court)
The revised fees do not apply to Court of Appeal or Supreme Court.
Expert’s fees 7.10 – an across the board 20% reduction in the current expert’s fees payable per hour. (And this after a sustained battle finally got the MoJ to revise surveyors’ fees to a more or less workable level last autumn, where they had initially been based on ‘drive by valuation’ fees in criminal and family matters.)
I’ll leave you to digest the consequences of all of this should it happen. (Think of all those JRs of refusal to provide interim accommodation settling after issue, but before permission, on grant of interim relief. Think of the only disrepair funding being for ‘urgent’ cases, where an expert report couldn’t be obtained for months, if at all. Etc…)
The consultation closing date is 4 June 2013. Respond early, respond often..
*It is an accurate title from the MoJ. Ceasing to exist is a form of transformation.