The Legal Ombudsman has confirmed that controversial staff benefit payments have now been stopped.
As revealed in annual accounts published last year, all employees of the organisation had an element of their pay packet allocated to a ‘flexible benefits scheme’ which contributed to their total compensation.
In total, the Office for Legal Complaints paid £874,940 to staff from April 2010 to April 2014, in a scheme described by former Ministry of Justice permanent secretary Ursula Brennan as ‘novel and contentious’, with clear evidence it was a scheme to pay benefits on top of base salaries.
It was confirmed last year that this scheme was never formally agreed with the MoJ.
OLC chief executive Nick Hawkins (pictured) this week confirmed the flexible benefit scheme (FBS) was paid to employees for the last time at the end of March 2016.
‘No further FBS will be paid to any staff in 2016/17,' he stated. 'Staff received a backdated 1% pay rise for 2015/16 in line with public sector guidelines.’
The confirmation came as the budget for handling legal complaints was revealed to have fallen by £6m since the post of chief legal ombudsman was created – even accounting for the expansion into deal with claims management companies.
The OLC has told the oversight regulator the Legal Services Board it wants the coming year to be about ‘stability and consolidation’, building on new permanent appointments of a chief executive and chief ombudsman.
The LSB response added: ‘In the light of the turbulence that the organisation has faced over the past one to two years, this seems a reasonable aspiration.’
The OLC budget for 2016/17 will be £13.63m, a reduction of 8.1%. During its first full year of operation, in 2011/12, the OLC budget was £19.72m, when it only handled complaints about lawyers and not claims management companies.
Next year’s spending is based on an expectation of investigating 7,000 legal cases and resolving 6,700, as well as receiving 17,500 complaints about CMCs and accepting 2,000 cases.
The LSB agreed the OLC budget at its March meeting, board papers published last week revealed.