The cost of handling legal complaints is set to rise in the next year – but the ombudsman says tangible improvements are just around the corner.
In its business plan for the next year, the Legal Ombudsman estimates its 2019/20 budget at £12.34m - a 13% increase from the expenditure in 2017/18. The ombudsman is expected to spend around £12m on legal cases in 2018/19.
The increasing budgets reflect estimates about the number of cases resolved, expected to reach levels not seen since 2015. The ombudsman states that 6,300 cases are expected to be resolved this year, but this number should rise 15.5% to 7,280 in 2019/20.
The forecast average cost for resolving each case is £1,873 in 2018/19 - the highest figure since 2013/14. This is estimated to fall to around £1,700 in 2019/2020.
The business plan says: ‘[Costs have] been affected by the move to the new business process, staff turnover, the high proportion of staff new in role, and changes in process to reflect the focus on quality.’
In her introduction to the business plan, chief ombudsman Rebecca Marsh said improvements in the organisation’s infrastructure may take time to show in performance. She added that the work done to improve access and support at the beginning of the complaints process should eventually see a ‘step change’ in quality.
‘Now we have the right infrastructure, process and complete transparency and oversight of our customers’ journey through the service,’ said Marsh. ‘We are well placed to both drive continuous improvement, giving a sustainable and consistent level of performance and to look at alternative delivery models.’