Legal Ombudsman Seeks 19% Budget Increase to Combat Delays

As delays into investigations continue to extend, fears that the Legal Ombudsman cannot properly function with its current funding have grown.

The Legal Ombudsman will ask for a 19% increase in its budget – equal to £2.5 million — as concerns grow that it is current funding is insufficient.

The Office for Legal Complaints, which oversees the Legal Ombudsman, said that its current position is “unsustainable”. There is currently a minimum six-month wait for investigations to be made into complaints; by the end of the current financial year, the OLC expects that 5,000 people will be waiting for an investigation.

The number of cases concluded by the Legal Ombudsman fell to fewer than 5,000 in 2020, down from 6,206 in 2018/19 – which can be attributed in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the legal sector, as furloughed staff and closed offices have had knock-on effects on staff productivity and service provider capacity to handle complaints swiftly.

In its business plan and budget, published yesterday, the Ombudsman stressed that its net expenditure for 2021/22 must be increased to £15.26 million, up from £12.8 million. A further 6% increase to £16.16 million would be necessary for 2022/23. With these proposed budget increases, the OLC predicted that it could conclude over 9,500 in 2022/23, cutting down on the existing backlog of customers by roughly 1,245.

Dlisabeth Davies, chair of the OLC, said the budget as it currently stands is inadequate to ensure that lawyers and consumers receive the level of service that they expect from the Legal Ombudsman.

“Additional resource is required to resolve complaints at a rate that meets current demand, addresses the additional impact of Covid-19, reduces the time customers wait for an investigation to start, and to ensure insight from casework is shared, enabling the sector to improve complaints-handling and tackle the root causes of consumer dissatisfaction,” Davies said.

This marks the second consecutive year that the OLC has sought a budget increase for the Legal Ombudsman. It applied for a 21% increase earlier this year, but was forced to backtrack.

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