The topic on everyone’s lips this week? The General Election and recently released party manifestos, bar the Green Party (who are probably still trying to find the most eco-friendly source to print their manifestos onto). The manifestos make all kinds of claims and promises on a variety of topics at the forefront of most of the nation’s minds such as housing, welfare, the NHS and, if the Liberal Democrats proposals are anything to go by, the legalisation of cannabis.
But for law firms specialising in areas funded by Legal Aid, what are the claims and promises made surrounding this? In short, not a lot it appears. But, who has said what?
The Green Party is the only party to have fully committed to reversing all Legal Aid cuts, but, is the only main party that is yet to release their manifesto.
The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have all promised to review cuts to Legal Aid with specific reviews aimed at criminal Legal Aid. The Liberal Democrats have also promised “no further savings” without an impact assessment being conducted and Labour have promised not to implement two-tier contracts for criminal Legal Aid and the revocation of the conditional payment regime for judicial reviews. The word “review” is probably at best a synonym for a lack of commitment to implementing real and positive change and at worst a euphemism for impending cuts; access to justice is not high on the political agenda it would seem.
UKIP have made a proposal: put a trained adviser in each food bank to assist users with legal needs. Make of it what you will.
Overall, the stance of the parties on Legal Aid appears to be weak with no clear proposals or promises made that will actually make a significant, positive and needed change to all areas of Legal Aid. It seems, as has been the case for many years, those working in Legal Aid and those affected by years of cuts are still hanging on an already fine thread to see what potential blows will come next. Like most proposals and promises made by the parties, we will just have to “review” the situation that arises as and when it happens.
Sian Mitchell, Legal Secretary
Posted on Thursday, 18th May 2017