Ex-consumer panel chief set to return as LeO chair

Davies: Select committee scrutiny

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has named the former chair of its consumer panel as its preferred candidate to chair the Office for Legal Complaints, the board of the Legal Ombudsman (LeO).

Elisabeth Davies has been approved by the Lord Chancellor and will appear before the justice select committee next week for pre-appointment scrutiny.

Her likely appointment comes as LeO’s performance continues to stutter.

Ms Davies chaired the Legal Services Consumer Panel between 2011 and 2016. Earlier in her career, she worked for both the NHS and advice-giving sector – such as in policy roles at the National Patient Safety Agency and Refugee Council – and has held several appointments.

She is currently the senior independent director of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, chair of the appointments committee at the General Pharmaceutical Council, and is also a trustee of Support Through Court, formerly the Personal Support Unit.

In January 2019 she was appointed as a member of the Civil Justice Council and she sits on the advisory board of the independent review of legal services regulation being conducted by Professor Stephen Mayson.

She would succeed Wanda Goldwag, whose term of office ends at the end of this month and Legal Futures understands did not seek a second stint.

The recruitment pack for the role said the LSB was looking for a person with experience of “turn-around situations”.

The chair, who cannot be a lawyer, will be paid £52,500 for a minimum of 60 days’ work a year, with the term to be between three and five years.

Dr Helen Phillips, chair of the LSB, said: “Subject to the report of the justice select committee, I am confident Elisabeth will contribute immediately and significantly to the work of the Legal Ombudsman and drive high performance.

“I would like to thank Wanda for the work she has done to begin improving the services offered to people with legal complaints and I wish her well for the future.”

LeO’s performance has improved somewhat during Ms Goldwag’s tenure and it is meeting most of its key performance indicators.

But it continues to have problems. The most recently published performance report recorded that the Birmingham-based organisation was 10% below target for the number of complaints it closed in December. This meant that there were 1,767 complaints still to be allocated to a case worker.

It blamed this on an “unanticipated level of resignations and leavers” following recruitment by the Financial Ombudsman Service and Local Government Ombudsman in the area.

LeO has long had a problem with staff turnover, but it hit 22.5% in December and the report said it was unable to compete on salary with these other bodies.

There has been a lot of work on business process improvements, and the report said LeO was exploring the feasibility of using artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve this further.

“In addition, consideration is being given to using a fast-track approach for some low complexity cases.”

Of the 110,000 contacts LeO receives in a typical year, around 7,000 are taken forward for investigation.

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