Late payment of fees by the Legal Services Commission (LSC) is driving barristers out of private practice, it has been alleged.

Gareth Roberts, a barrister at Linenhall Chambers in Chester, said that delays in payment have lengthened since the LSC took over the processing and payment of fees to barristers last year. ‘It is taking three months to process payments, with the LSC sending bills back and citing the most spurious and petty reasons why they have to be reissued,’ he claimed.

Roberts said the delay is causing ‘massive cashflow problems’ for criminal and family barristers, with many forced to take out loans to pay tax and VAT on the sums due. He said: ‘I know colleagues who are defaulting on loan agreements and mortgages and are having to plead with bailiffs to stop them taking their property.’

Roberts said he contacted the former justice minister Jonathan Djanogly to complain about the delay and warn Djanogly that if he ever found himself being sued for non-payment of his tax, he would join the LSC in any action as it had failed to pay him.

He said: ‘The situation has got worse. It is driving a lot of good and experienced barristers away from the independent bar because they cannot afford to carry on.’

The LSC said since April it had exceeded its target to process 90% of advocates’ graduated fees within 30 days.