The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) is asking for a 20% increase in its budget to ensure that people are not kept waiting for their complaints to be handled. The Office for Legal Complaints (OLC), which runs LeO has asked for £2.4 million extra in 2020-21 in its Corporate Strategy 2020-23.
Half of the proposed budget is for extra staff to deal with increased case closures, with the balance taken up with investment in feedback to the profession, IT costs and inflation. The OLC reported that it concluded in excess of 6,000 cases each year in the last two years and expects this to rise to 7,200 at the end of the current year. It is anticipating that it will conclude nearly 8,500 cases in 2020-21.
In recent years LeO has suffered delays in handling complaints and a high turnover in staff. Lawyers have complained about being kept waiting for decisions following complaints from clients.
Rebecca Marsh, Chief Ombudsman & Chief Executive, OLC said: “”We are keenly aware we still have work to do to meet our own expectations as well as those of stakeholders, complainants and their service providers. Next year’s business plan includes a commitment to provide a much improved, timelier service to everyone who comes to us.”
The Legal Ombudsman receives most of its funding from the annual fee that law firms and other service providers pay to their regulators, so a large increase in OLC’s budget is likely to see lawyers faced with increased costs. “While there is little firms can do to change this, they can take steps to ensure that they deal with any complaints they receive promptly and efficiently. This could help to avoid a referral to the LeO or even a claim for professional negligence,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions.
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