Legal Services Board levy set to fall as it reins in costs


Edmonds: focus on efficiency and economy

The Legal Services Board (LSB) is planning to reduce its levy on the legal profession by 9% next year, it announced yesterday.

The reduction to £4.5m “reflects the move from start-up and development work to delivering our core responsibility of overseeing regulation, although things will never be routine”, a consultation on its 2012/13 business plan said.

The LSB’s costs are levied on the approved regulators in proportion to the number of ‘authorised persons’ – such as solicitors, barristers and Fellows of the Institute of Legal Executives – under their supervision.

Chairman David Edmonds said the LSB’s costs would amount to less than £31 per authorised person. “As I promised from the outset of the LSB, we are continuing our own focus on efficiency and economy,” he said.

The draft business plan for 2012/13 says a consultation on whether will-writing, probate and estate administration should become reserved activities will be issued in the second quarter of 2012.

The LSB will conduct thematic reviews of immigration and conveyancing work as areas “where evidence of consumer detriment and/or actual or potential risks to the wider public interest and other regulatory objectives have been identified”.

Others areas that may be subjec

t to research are employment and “general legal advice”, while the LSB hopes to benchmark small business access to justice.

The LSB will work to end the transitional protection which means that those firms which would otherwise have to apply for an alternative business structure (ABS) license do not need to do so.

It is going to determine the regulation of ‘special bodies’ – not-for-profit bodies, community interest companies and trade unions – which currently have transitional protection too. Though they will eventually have to become ABSs, they are being treated carefully given the role they play in providing advice to vulnerable consumers.

The consultation also includes a draft strategic plan for the LSB’s work over the next three years, which lists three key priorities: assuring and improving the performance of approved regulators; helping consumers to choose and use legal services with confidence; and “helping the changing legal sector to flourish by delivering appropriate regulation to address risks”.

Mr Edmonds said: “We have virtually completed delivery of our first three years’ strategic plan with the framework for ABS in place, the Legal Ombudsman working effectively and regulatory independence more firmly embedded than ever.

“We are going to consolidate that progress, and set the agenda for the next three years. We want to both challenge and work alongside the approved regulators to ensure that they regulate in ways which encourage entry and innovation, while targeting risk even more effectively. That mixture is essential if the market is to work better for consumers in today’s tough economic climate.”

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