To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what representations she has received regarding (a) abolition of the current cost of living increases for Community Legal Service contracts and (b) automatic annual uprating of funding for Community Legal Service contracts in line with the Retail Prices Index. [R]
My Department receives regular representations on remuneration rates for the Community Legal Service (CLS). However, we have has received no representations on the abolition of cost of living increases for CLS contracts. As at 16 April, my Department had received 28 letters and three parliamentary questions from Members; and 13 letters direct from members of the public on the automatic annual uprating of funding for CLS contracts.
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what proposals she has for improving access for socially excluded people to justice in civil law disputes in areas where there are no firms bidding for Community Legal Service contracts. [R]
Through the on-going development of the Community Legal Service, the Legal Services Commission has introduced initiatives to improve access to specialist advice in civil matters for the socially excluded, including a number aimed at those who live in areas where there may be a shortage of contracted suppliers. The initiatives include telephone advice pilots in categories such as debt, employment, housing and welfare benefits, as well as outreach contracts through which law firms and other service providers deliver advice sessions at a range of venues such as community centres and GP surgeries. In addition, the first round of the Partnership Innovation Budget funds 76 projects utilising fresh methods of advice provision in areas where supply is limited.
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what consultations the Lord Chancellor's Department has undertaken on the appropriateness of placing duties on local government to (a) participate in Community Legal Service Partnerships and (b) include Community Legal Service coverage in their strategic plans. [R]
My Department has not formally consulted on the issue of a statutory duty either compelling local authority participation in Community Legal Service (CLS) Partnerships, or compelling the inclusion of CLS coverage in local authority strategic plans. From the outset of the CLS, local authorities have demonstrated a willingness to participate actively in the emerging CLS Partnerships. Their participation is regarded as central to the success of each CLS Partnership. These now involve over four hundred local authorities and cover over 99 per cent. of the population of England and Wales. The introduction of a Best Value Performance Indicator measuring the percentage of local authority expenditure on CLS quality marked services has provided an incentive for local authorities to include the CLS as part of their own strategic plans.
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans the Lord Chancellor's Department has to carry out an evaluation of the Community Legal Service; and if she will make a statement. [R]
My Department will commission an independent review of the Community Legal Service (CLS) scheduled to begin in the autumn of 2003 and to report in April 2004. The terms of reference will be finalised shortly. It is likely that the review will assess how the CLS has impacted on the accessibility of legal advice services at a local level and the ways in which policy development has influenced the targeting of resources within communities. It is also likely that consideration will be given to the relationship between the CLS and the wider social exclusion agenda and the linkages that have been established with the social equity programmes of other Government Departments.
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what assessment the Lord Chancellor's Department has made of the effect of proposed changes to competition rules concerning the provision of legal services upon Community Legal Service contracts. [R]
My Department works with the Legal Services Commission to ensure that the Community Legal Service contracting regime complies with Government competition policy and regulations.