The Legal Ombudsman is still failing to meet its targets on cost and timeliness, new figures have revealed.
Papers published by the Legal Services Board this week report that, of cases resolved in October, just 48% had taken less than 90 days. The target is for 60% of cases to be resolved within that time.
The performance continues a worsening trend in the second half of 2015: in June 57% of cases were closed within 90 days, but that figure has either dropped or remained the same every month since.
The average case cost has now risen to £1,903 – a jump of 10% compared with costs in June – and above the stated target of £1,750.
The ‘quality measure’ of 58% for the second quarter of 2015 is significantly higher than the 40% target, although the latest figure is a slight drop compared with that recorded in June.
Concerns over the performance of the LeO came to light in September, when it emerged that the LSB had ordered a review of missed targets.
This comes at a time when the Office for Legal Complaints is projecting to have fielded 6,500 complaints in 2015/16 – 1,900 fewer than in 2011/12, the first full year of its existence.
In the latest update, given to last month’s LSB board meeting, the OLC said similar problems are causing the failure to meet performance targets.
These include technical difficulties with the new case management system, causing 'intermittent performance interruptions' and major disruption in August. These were likely to last for another month.
What are described as ‘short-term’ impacts of changes to working practices and workload management are also affecting performance.
The OLC continued to report that ‘material improvements in the timeliness measure will not be seen until the longer-term benefits of current initiatives take effect and until additional planned resource is appointed and up to speed’.
The organisation reported progress on recruiting a flexible pool of ombudsmen and confirmed interviews for fixed-term secondments as ombudsmen have also been completed.
However implementation is likely to be delayed by cuts to Ministry of Justice spending.
Until March 2016, the OLC will continue to report performance against the LSB targets, and will be required to provide a written explanation wherever performance falls below them.
The LSB also expects to receive a hard copy of the OLC annual report and accounts for 2014/15 by the end of January, the same month as new chief ombudsman Kathryn Stone is expected to start in her role.