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‘A terrible day for the poor and disadvantaged’: Legal aid cuts force closure of London law centre

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Lambeth not-for-profit goes to the wall with immediate effect

Lambeth Law Centre has closed down with immediate effect as it emerged that half of all not-for-profit legal advice providers have gone the same way since 2013.

The law centre’s trustees cited “financial pressures caused by legal aid cuts and increased operating costs” as behind the closure. A statement released overnight added that “having failed to secure emergency funding to keep the Law Centre going, we were left with no choice but to decide on closure”.

The law centre’s last published accounts had pointed to the “difficult and uncertain” environment for law centres generally, but also revealed that Lambeth had recently underpaid VAT and had to work out a payment plan with HMRC.

Established in 1981, Lambeth Law Centre provided advice on the likes of debt, welfare benefits, employment and housing in the inner London borough. Mark George QC, head of chambers at Garden Court North, said it was “a terrible day for the poor and disadvantaged you have served so well all these years”.

There had been rumours in the legal aid sector that Lambeth was in financial difficulties, with projects based at the centre flying the nest. The Public Interest Law Centre has been found a new home at another law centre, according to the Law Centres Network.

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Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, the network’s head of policy and profile, said:

“Lambeth Law Centre has had a proud record of service to south Londoners priced out of justice. We are all very sad at its closure, which the Law Centres Network has worked hard to help it avoid. Its loss, due to adversity we all share, strengthens our movement’s resolve to fight on for social justice for our communities.”

Half the not-for-profit legal advice services in England and Wales have shut their doors over the past few years, according to the government’s own figures . In 2013/14 there were 94, but by 2019/20 only 47 remained.

There is slightly better news for the country’s remaining law centres, which have just been awarded a £500,000 lottery grant.

Lambeth’s closure will nevertheless increase the pressure on politicians to act to salvage the legal aid sector. The Guardian reported yesterday that central funding for law centres through legal aid contracts has fallen from £12 million to £7 million.

Dozens of politicians have signed up for #TakeYourMPToWork, a campaign that will see MPs visit law centres, courts and firms to learn about the justice system at the coalface. The campaign, run by Young Legal Aid Lawyers and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid and supported by the Ministry of Justice, had its official launch in parliament last night.

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42 Comments

Junior Barrister

This is terrific news. I have represented many landlords in court that end up losing tens of thousands in legal fees due to stubborn tenants. Costs orders are useless against tenants as they can’t afford to pay. Landlords need more rights.

(80)(59)

Anonymous

I can’t tell if you’re being serious. Are you really applauding less access to justice with reference to one sub-field of law as seen from the perspective of your own practice? Jesus wept.

(53)(54)

Anonymous

These sorts of places are often stacked with lefties who push bad points in the hope rent dodging scoundrels will get to stay in property longer knowing the judges won’t make costs orders that mean anything. We are too soft on bankrupts too nowadays.

(33)(11)

Anonymous

100% correct. Aided and abetted by the human rights act and the equality act which provide fertile ground for poor points to be taken by left wing housing lawyers.

(28)(13)

Anonymous

Except that the human rights act only applies to the state not private landlords. It will always provide fertile ground for points to be taken by right wing 1st year students who haven’t learnt this yet.

Anonymous

Except that when you need to get the state – or the court – to act in a housing disputes then human rights issues are all over the place. You comment like a third tier 2nd year with a borderline pass
In constitutional law and a future that is going to disappoint your parents.

Charla

The ‘let them live squaller and transport them for rent arrears’ big girl/boy boasting is getting tiresome.

It’s all a hearty laugh until it’s them and they’re crying down a glass of malbec because their partners have sucked the company dry and their running shoes are in a Lehman shaped cardboard box.

Everyone in hardship must have access to some representation.

Law centres make up a small quotient of legal services in the U.K. and provide a life line when you can’t afford to enforce your basic rights.

It’s sickening that they’ve been reduced by half, leaving people to resort to daily agony, crime or death.

(10)(24)

Anonymous

I stopped at “squaller”.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

👏👏👏👏👏

(3)(0)

Anonymous

4/10 trolling. Too on the nose. Must take more care in your work.

(10)(17)

Anonymous

Also is this not rather short sighted and illogical from your own warped perspective. If they do not need to spend thousands on eviction proceedings they will not need you represent them. Instead not only can they run roughshod over tenants they won’t need expensive lawyers either.

(6)(10)

Anonymous

If it bothers you, charge the same fee as a law centre. Simples.

(10)(3)

Anonymous

That’ll hit the silence button.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Agree. The law is far too stacked against landlords. The money judgments are rarely met, let alone costs.

(23)(10)

Men's Aid Charity

Shine a light – let’s hope you are not in that situation once day!

An equal right for justice, equality of arms and a fair hearing etc – why not just terminate people instead?

Where are you drawing the line?

(4)(0)

Anonymous

👏👏

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Cunt.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Nimrod.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Too bad, so sad. Next.

(2)(5)

Anonymous

Brothers! Sisters!

A windfall tax on moneylaw greed to pay for legal aid!

A tax on City greed! Down with crooked metropolitan elites! Freedom for Palestine and open door immigration from Africa!!!!

Vote Corbyn, for the many, not the few!!!!

(2)(19)

Anonymous

This is the worst one yet.

Scroungers.

(6)(1)

Bob the goat manager

For the many (or at least those with the same narrow vision of communism) not for the jew (because Corbyn has created a racist anti-semitic organisation)

(10)(6)

Incoming LLB

BORING!! Please keep to articles about who’s winning the megadollah money war between Kirkland and Latham. It’s literally the pinnacle of life to become a trainee for these firms. Enough with the irrelevant stuff like this article.

(9)(4)

David Barlow

This is terrible news but not all law centres do good work, the one I’m using or what you said sabotaged the relationship between myself and them, because of fears of reprisal from the local council it was there was taking action against so therefore by letting me down would be the easier option..

(1)(7)

Anonymous

Fair enough. The problem has been that the lower classes and the old are not paying enough tax. The average earner, firmly in the working class, just pays 9% income tax taking into account the pathetic vote buying personal allowance that grows bigger and bigger.

(4)(6)

Kirkland NQ

Lmao let me go and get my smallest violin. Who cares, legal aid is for peasants, meanwhile i’m driving in my LAMBO with a blond bimbo’s head between my legs loving life so good

(3)(8)

Anonymous

Say hello to Boris for me. When he’s finished.

(18)(0)

Anonymous

😂😂😂😂😂

(4)(0)

Charla

Sublime 🤣

(4)(0)

Bored of legal aid whinges

The constant whining about legal aid is tiresome. It is a form of taxation and redistribution, just like the NHS and any other form of benefits. People’s support for it depends on (a) their position on the political spectrum (left wing tax ‘n’ spend, or right wing live and let die); and (b) if they work in legal aid, their own selfish economic interests. There is nothing wrong with either of those motivations: I commend the left-wing legal aid lawyers who genuinely believe that the end of the world is nigh. They should, however, also respect that there are many of us who believe that (a) the UK is insufficiently competitive, and who prefer the Singapore/Hong Kong/Dubai/Cayman low-tax/no benefits model; and (b) the post-1945 welfare state went too far, and that in fact people, and families, must live (or die) within their means. In case it is not clear, I favour the latter, hence why I never had any interest in publicly-funded work.

Please can we have less preaching and remonstrating from those who are convinced that their view is the only legitimate view. If you don’t like the status quo, vote to change it. If you are unable to garner sufficient votes to implement your preferred version of nirvana, then accept defeat gracefully.

(32)(6)

Benny Goodman

I agree with your position on how people should be debating these points (i.e. people who can’t imagine a view different to their own are tiresome). But re your substantive point. I don’t know how far you are saying we should go. If we take that philosophy through to its logical conclusion, we are talking about health, access to justice, education, social services (etc) only for those who can afford it; and a person’s ability to provide for themselves and their family, and to thrive, dependent entirely on the decisions of shareholders maximising profit. We did try such an approach – at the start of the industrial revolution – and it nearly led to social disintegration. Also, at one point or another, if we took such an approach, we would have to choose between commitment to that economic philosophy and democracy because the system would quickly get to a position where the majority of people did not consider it to benefit them.

Also, re the countries you cite as examples – those countries are both richer and much smaller in demographic terms; with the exception of Cayman, their per-capita GDP dwarfs that of the UK. Cayman’s population is 60,000 – it’s about as big as Leamington Spa. Policies that could successfully apply to a small town cannot be replicated across a country of 66m, and the costs of failure are very different and much higher.

Most sensible people, once they put aside the attraction of abstract but unworkable theories (both on the right and left), mostly settle on the view that some welfare state and some free market are in order, the moot point being where the balance should be struck.

Turning to the subject of the article, it is all about whether one takes the position that people who are impecunious should be able to access civil legal services. Arguments that landlords should but tenants should not have access to representation do not seem particularly convincing….

(13)(1)

Anonymous

‘A terrible day for the poor and disadvantaged’…maybe, but probably not.

It is a terrible day for greedy left-wing lawyers.

And it is a very good day indeed for the taxpayer.

(12)(9)

Mary

Law centre lawyers get paid a pittance, read something other than Apple news.

(8)(2)

Anonymous

Let’s lay it open to the floor and get a consensus view: what’s absolutely the worst and most scammy type of legal aid work you have all come across?

(3)(0)

Mesne Chunt

Hi,

Not a legal professional, but I am a landlord.

Are these comments sarcasm or do people genuinely think like this about tax and poor people not paying their fair share…?

I’m sure you’re all educated enough to know there has to be poor people for their to be wealthy people and, more importantly, for wealthy people to be adequately serviced.

Try being poor and paying rent and working on minimum wage to then be told you’re not paying your fair share of tax and scrounging off the all the wealthier people above you.

Also, next time when you order your Deliveroo and pay £2.50 for delivery, you should take a mental note that this is only possible because the poor bar steward delivering it is willing to work for pennies and willing to live in a stool-hole and paying most of his earnings in rent to just survive – it’s precisely because people like this exist that you can just about afford your Pret lunches and morning wake ups at Starbucks – otherwise you’d couldn’t afford to eat anything.

A business’ biggest costs are usually salaries/wages – if poor people decide they no longer want to be poor and want to be higher earners like you so they can “pay their fair share”, you’ll probably end up poorer than them because the costs of your little enjoyments will sky rocket – the same little enjoyments those former poor people have experience living without

They can’t afford legal advice. If they’re getting kicked out by a merciless landlord, then they need legal help – what is so difficult to understand about this? Yes, some greedy lawyers love legal aid and some rotten tenants just abuse the system to stay longer without paying rent, but so do some rotten landlords.

Tell all the poor people to pay more tax and let them all get kicked out of their homes by landlords with your ilk by their sides and then watch the whole system fall apart – yes you too will be a victim of the fall out. No rich person will escape when the poor rioting on the streets

They have to stay poor so you can stay rich – but they have to properly exist first to be poor. If you’re against them properly existing, then they won’t be poor any longer, but 100% state dependent

Aresholes

(12)(1)

Anonymous

Said with conviction and passion. And some eloquence (apart from “aresholes”).

But as a landlord you are part of the problem. Unless you’re a social landlord. Which I doubt.

Why are houses in private hands for rental? It’s a scandal. They should be taken off private landlords and run as social housing by associations and other not-for-profits. There aren’t enough homes in the country. No private interest should be allowed to own more than one. It is the worst form of profiteering off the back of the less fortunate.

I speak as someone who in most things is a free market capitalist. But like anyone with eyes to see, I can recognise the scourge of private landlords, however well meaning they may be.

(1)(4)

Mesne Chunt

Yes, I agree. But, this will never change, never! Property will never be taken off private landlords. So, given this, I think tenants would prefer a half-decent landlord than some scumbag. Now, of course, most tenants aren’t in a position to be picky about the type of landlord they give half of their hard earned money to, but they can still take action against them if they have legal help.

It’s not just about properties – family law help is seriously required in some places (I don’t know if family law is within legal aid).

I know of a mother-of-three near me who was recently sent packing by her husband because he “fell” for someone younger – she had no where to go and is now living in the loft of her father’s house with her three children (oldest 10) where her two married brothers already live. Her marriage wasn’t registered and not recognised by the courts – not sure if legal aid would even cover financial remedy in family courts.

The poor are already in a bad way and being pushed towards a wall – there is only so much that can be squeezed out of them. It’s time to loosen the reigns a bit or when they find their backs are up against a wall, they’ll have no option but to push back – there have been a fair few mini-riots in east London since 2011 that got no media coverage whatsoever not even in the local papers, think about that for a second.

Free market economics means there will always be inequality and this shouldn’t be the point of discussion; it’s the extent of the inequality that needs to be focused on here.

Legal aid and other instruments facilitate in leveling the playing field or at least give the impression of it, which is enough for most.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Right, like arms sales: if we don’t do it, someone else will; and we’re more conscientious than others.

Saying you’re a half-decent landlord is no answer at all. If you genuinely cared about social inequalities you wouldn’t be a private landlord at all.

You’re one small contributor to social misery just as a law centre worker is one small contributor to the social good.

(0)(0)

Mesne Chunt

What on earth? Why are you jumping from someone being a landlord to an arms dealer?

I’m saying no government will ever have the power/budget to de-privatise the renting market – it’s just nonsense to even think like this. I don’t think even Corbyn would be mad enough to suggest this.

Today, Khan will unveil a report to put caps on the renting market in London – I support this as a landlord. Not de-privatising, but regulating i.e. meeting in the middle somewhere…

It’s about working with what we have and making it as fair as we can for everybody

Anonymous

The fact that we don’t want taxpayer’s money wasted on left-wing law centres in no way implies we approve of slum landlordism either.

In fact, you might say that they are two sides of the same coin.

These are all blights on our nation that we need to sort out sooner rather than later.

(0)(1)

Anon

The trouble with the legal profession is that 98% of its members give the rest a bad name.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

The self-righteous lefties who back debt dodgers are a disgrace, but they aren’t close to 98%.

(5)(4)

Comments are closed.

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