Ruth Wayte of the Legal Services Commission is excited about the Co-op’s recent bidding. ‘Advice deserts will cease to be a problem,’ she trills.
These are of course advice deserts that have been carefully created by the LSC, and by the Legal Aid Board before it, since the early 1990s.
How wonderfully successful these government clones have been. I saw the writing on the wall 20 years ago when franchising, as it was called back then, was introduced to make life as difficult as possible for small legal aid practitioners.
The cull was on. The LSC had its advice deserts and in secret rubbed its hands with glee. No more messy one- and two-partner firms to contend with. This was always about handing legal aid, that fragment of it that might survive, over to big suppliers. Even if, as with the Co-op, an honourable organisation in many ways, they had no tradition of providing legal services.
Central government and big business have seen off the legal profession as we once knew it. If our clients think any part of this represents some brave new world, they are mistaken.
Ian Craine, London N15