Legal Services Board eyes 14% increase in budget

LSB: Focus on existing initiatives, not starting new ones

The Legal Services Board (LSB) is considering a 14% increase in its budget in a bid to strengthen its “direct oversight” of the frontline regulators’ performance.

The LSB’s main board will tomorrow be asked to approve going out to consultation on a draft 2024/25 business plan with a budget of £5.3m, £650,000 more than in the current year.

“Overseeing regulators’ performance, central to our direct regulatory oversight, is key to delivering public confidence in legal services and improving regulation in the public interest,” a paper before the board will say.

The profession pays for the LSB through practising fees and the rise would equate to a cost of £27.88 per lawyer across the eight regulated professions – some 191,162 people in total, based on recent figures.

We reported last month that the Legal Ombudsman has proposed a 7% increase, or £1.2m, in its budget to nearly £18m next year. This too is funded by a levy on lawyers.

“The draft business plan sets out our proposal to strengthen our direct oversight of regulators’ performance,” the paper says.

“This will include stepping up our ongoing monitoring and increasing our capacity to carry out reviews and investigations, supporting regulators to deliver their obligations effectively; as well as building a better understanding of risk and detriment across the regulated sector through our enhanced market surveillance and horizon scanning approach.

“This will require the increased resource proposed in this paper and reflects the importance we attach to regulatory performance and to our ability to detect and respond to detriment and harm to users of legal services wherever it may occur.

“It also recognises feedback from last year’s business plan consultation about the need to focus on regulators’ performance.”

More broadly, the paper says the LSB’s focus in 2024/25 will be on “maximising the benefits of recent policy interventions through ensuring their effective implementation by the regulators rather than beginning new initiatives”.

This will include “ensuring regulation supports upholding the rule of law and professional ethics”, including supporting the new regulatory objective – as introduced by the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 – to promote the prevention and detection of economic crime.

Among further objectives are developing a policy statement on equality, diversity and inclusion “to remove barriers to a diverse and inclusive profession”, ensuring regulators’ approaches to disciplinary and enforcement processes build public confidence, and considering the role of regulation in ensuring safe uses of artificial intelligence.

The proposed budget increase will enable the LSB to “develop resilience in its proactive and reactive investigative and performance oversight capability”, as well as the market surveillance capability requested by the board.

The paper says: “In preparing the draft budget, we have been mindful of the economic context, and the pressures on some parts of the legal services sector. In the current climate, we consider that it is vital that legal services users and the public can rely on high standards of regulation.”

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