Last updated:2023-09-18
Gove slammed over ‘laughable’ fee cut offer
Criminal lawyers have reacted with disappointment and fury at the Lord Chancellor’s offer to suspend the latest 8.75 per cent fee cut for three months, after the profession called off its 52-day boycott in August.
The protest, led by the Criminal Law Solicitors Association and the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association, was called in July in an attempt to derail government plans for two-tier contracting, which is expected to drive many defence firms out of business.
Leaders of the two groups called off the action in what they said was ‘a goodwill gesture’, amid hints that a deal was in the offing. However, at a meeting with LCCSA, CLSA and the Big Firms Group, justice secretary Michael Gove MP said that, while he welcomed the profession’s ‘constructive engagement’ in suspending the action, he intended to press ahead with two-tier contracts.
Gove’s only concession was to suspend the 1 July 2015 fee cut (the second in 18 months) for three months, starting in January 2016, ‘to support firms as the new contracts are introduced’. An MoJ spokesperson confirmed that this offer was contingent on the profession co-operating during the transition to the new contracting system.
Jon Black, president of LCCSA, and Bill Waddington, chair of CLSA, issued a joint statement suggesting that the temporary suspension of the fee cut might become permanent. It brought ‘very modest financial savings for firms, whatever happens to two-tier. They will be lost if rejected.’
They added: ‘At no time have we indicated support for two-tier.’ However, the groups appear to be conceding that the battle to prevent its introduction has been lost. Any alternative ‘involves some form of consolidation and we are mindful of the individual business structures of our membership which renders reaching a consensus very difficult. This is something that we are working upon in the hope that we can work towards keeping as many firms as possible in business.’
Some who had supported the earlier action, including many barristers, reacted with anger to the government’s offer. Mark George QC, head of Garden Court North, described it on Twitter as ‘laughable’.
JFH Crime in north London tweeted: ‘So this is what we went on strike for? What we gave up huge amounts of work for?’