- WE VOTED ON PRECISELY THIS ISSUE LAST YEAR
- OTHERWISE WE BREACH OUR AGREEMENT WITH THE GOVERNMENT OF 27th MARCH 2014.
- WE LOSE EVERYTHING WE GAINED LAST YEAR AND HAVE GAINED SINCE
Last Spring, following the Government’s announcement of fee cuts to the Criminal Bar through AGFS and VHCC, the Criminal Bar took action. The Government entered into negotiations with the Bar. An agreement was reached. HERE is a link to the agreement.
The Government gave us what we had asked for. They could not revoke legislation already passed about VHCC rates but they accepted that barristers could choose whether to accept them or not. Barristers did not. Individual brief fees were later negotiated for these cases.
They agreed to postpone any further cuts to our fees until after Jeffrey and Leveson had reported and to enter into a review of AGFS and VHCC fees, taking into account other ways in which money could be saved in the CJS.
In return, the CBA would withdraw the “no returns” policy and “normal working practices and relationships through the CJS should be restored, with no further days of action”.
The CBA Executive approved this agreement.
Some argued that the CBA should not have made this agreement, which became known as “The Deal”. They took the view that as we had been given what we had asked for this meant that the Government was “on the ropes”. They said we should therefore ask for more – viz abandonment of dual contracts and cuts to solicitors’ fees.
The CBA Executive agreed to put the question to the CBA Membership in a ballot.
The question posed for the ballot was this:
“Do you wish to continue no returns and days of action until all the cuts and reduction in (solicitors’) contracts are abandoned?”
Posing and answering “What does the question mean?” Nigel Lithman said:
- “All the cuts” means those currently in force for both the Bar and solicitors ie 30% VHCCs, 8.75% first tranche of cuts for solicitors and those yet to come into force ie average 6% of AGFS (due in around July 2014) and second tranche of solicitor’s cuts of 8.75% (now postponed with the agreement of the Law Society to summer 2015).
- “Reductions in contracts”: This refers to the proposals to cut the number of solicitors’ duty contracts from over 1600 to 525
- “Abandoned”: it seems that “deferral” is not sufficient.
The CBA Membership voted, overwhelmingly, “No”.
What has changed? Nothing. The Government has honoured its part of the deal; we should honour ours.
The solicitors’ 8.75% cut the subject of the current ballot was the subject of the last.
Since then the CBA has been actively engaged with the Government looking at a new fee structure for all cases that is fairer to all.
Three reports have now been published. They make clear that the independent bar is a highly skilled, precious national asset which is on the verge of extinction as a result of the existing arrangements as between barristers and solicitors. The Government understands this. The Bar is hard at work with very regular meetings with Government to find a solution to this.
If we break our word with Government these negotiations will no doubt be abandoned. Everything we gained by our principled action last year will be lost. Please don’t let that happen.
 CBA messages 28/3/14 and 31/3/14