The time taken by the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) to resolve cases increased over the summer, new figures have shown.
The monthly update that LeO has to provide to the Legal Services Board (LSB) so that it can monitor its progress showed that the proportion of cases resolved within 90 days fell from 50% in June this year to 47.1% in July – against a target of 60%.
The target for resolving cases within 180 days in 90%, but in July the figure fell to 80.7%.
In his report to this month’s meeting of the LSB’s full board, chief executive Neil Buckley reported that the decline was caused by a “bulge” in cases being assessed.
However, the average cost per case also fell from June to July, from £1,734 to £1,575, per investigation from £835 to £795, and per complaint from £57 to £54.
Mr Buckley said this ‘bulge’ was being dealt with “but is likely to have an impact on performance in the coming months as [it] works its way through the system. LeO has taken steps to prevent such a build-up happening again in the future”.
LeO’s governing body, the Office for Legal Complaints (OLC), put in place a new performance plan for the Legal Ombudsman in April this year, following problems with poor performance and persistent failure to meet targets.
LeO has also started providing the LSB with a quarterly overview of progress. In the first one, covering April to June, Steve Green, chair of the OLC, said staff shortages had “largely been made good”, and there had been an “improvement in combined and complainant satisfaction levels”.
Mr Green said: “It has been identified that the use of the telephone in the resolution of complaints has hitherto been limited. There is now a clear expectation that telephone communication should be the primary method to communicate with our customers, unless specified otherwise.
“This change has been communicated to staff and should impact positively on timeliness performance in the next quarter as a result of increased informal resolutions.”