A law centre has highlighted growing support for a levy on corporate law firms to help fund pro bono advice.

Around 300 people have signed Greater Manchester Law Centre's open letter to city mayor Andy Burnham calling for the levy. Signatories include human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield QC, film director Ken Loach, lawyers and staff from 'supportive' law firms and chambers, and advice agencies.

Posting an update today, the centre says it is 'now engaged in constructive discussions with the mayor's office, and we are eager to see where this leads'.

However, the centre insists it has 'absolutely not' abandoned calls for legal aid to be restored. It said: 'Access to justice is as fundamental as access to healthcare or education. We continue to demand the restoration of publicly funded legal services.

'This levy forms part of our wider campaign to meet the advice and representation needs of our community and to put pressure on the government to address the barriers to justice created by legal aid cuts.'

It added: 'We know that to survive, we need to be creative. Our supporters are helping to get our voice heard and to promote viable, innovative means of fighting for free access to justice.'

The idea of a levy was mooted by the then lord chancellor Michael Gove two years ago. His suggestion was greeted with a cool reception among City lawyers at the time. A few months later, the plan was put on the back-burner.

A levy was discussed at the first meeting of a panel established by the solicitor-general, Robert Buckland, to promote and coordinate lawyers' voluntary efforts last month. However, no decisions were made, the Gazette understands.