LSB gives Bar Council a ticking off over staffing criticism

Phillips: Letter to Bar Council

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has given the Bar Council a slap on the wrist for the comments it made in a Legal Futures article about staffing levels at the oversight regulator.

We reported last month the Bar Council’s response to plans by the LSB to introduce systematic monitoring of regulatory independence to ensure that approved regulators obey its revised internal governance rules.

The Bar Council said it was “mindful of the fact” that the LSB was funded by the profession: “Consequently, we question whether it is necessary for the LSB to recruit two new members of staff, as we believe they are doing, to do this task and whether instead, the function could be fulfilled using existing resources.

“This is particularly pertinent considering the pressure that barristers are currently experiencing on their earning capacity as a result of restrictions on their work caused by coronavirus.”

In sending over the consultation response, the Bar Council flagged up this concern in the covering email as the main point of interest.

Legal Futures understands that the advertisement for two regulatory policy managers was actually filling existing roles, rather than creating new ones.

According to the report of LSB chief executive Matthew Hill to its subsequent board meeting, chair Dr Helen Phillips wrote to her counterpart at the Bar Council, Amanda Pinto QC, following publication of the article.

Mr Hill recorded: “The chair stated her concern that the Bar Council had chosen to raise its question about LSB recruitment through the media rather than first approach the LSB.

“The LSB pointed out the factual errors in the Bar Council’s understanding to the publication.

“The LSB does not consider the Covid-19 crisis to be a reason to reduce resources focused on protecting consumers and those who need legal services, particularly as those needs are likely to intensify in some areas as a result of Covid-19.”

A Bar Council spokesman said: “We first raised our views directly with the LSB through our response to its consultation and received no communication on the subject thereafter.

“As with all of our consultation responses, we publish them on our website after we have submitted them to the organisation carrying out the consultation.”

He said there was no reason to hide responses to LSB consultations, “critical or otherwise”, from public view.

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