The Haldane Society has for years been at the forefront of calls to protect the justice system from government cuts, and for meaningful investment to restore and expand services that were available before the start of conservative austerity politics. We have consistently supported the Criminal Bar Association's action demanding a real terms increase in funding for the AGFS, and improvements in funding throughout the justice system.
The Criminal Bar Association is now consulting (including through a Heads of Chambers meeting being convened today) on ending the strike in the criminal courts. The Haldane Society is strongly opposed to this course of action for the following reasons:
- The government's proposals are for a small immediate increase in funding in the AGFS for some practitioners. However, this does little other than replace funding that was cut in the post-1 April 2018 scheme, and is a drop in the ocean.
- The government then propose a 1% increase in funding next year. RPI is currently at 2.2%: as such, a 1% increase is a real terms cut of approximately 1.2%.
- After the first year, the government does not envisage any further increases, or index linking to the AGFS. This means year on year real terms cuts will continue. No other sector of the economy would tolerate this.
- The government proposes to continue cuts in other areas of the justice system. They also propose no new funding for the justice system as a whole.
- Finally, the government expects criminal advocates to work under the reduced fees of the post-1 April 2018 scheme until November.
The reality is that the proposals to be put to CBA members amount to accepting cuts, and giving up on a strike which has seen unprecedented unity. We have the advantage now. There is no conceivable reason why we should throw that advantage away.
The Haldane Society backs those chambers who will continue and escalate the present action, implementing no returns immediately, and calling for:
- An immediate real terms increase in fees, not just restoration of fees already cut.
- Index linking of future fees.
- Restoration of funding for solicitors in the LGFS.
- Investment throughout the justice system, particularly in court infrastructure.
- Meaningful improvements in work-life balance, in particular the abolition of warned lists and the abandoment of court closures and longer sitting hours.
We look forward to the continuation of the current no returns policy, rather than its suspension, and to the calling of whole strike days. Only such a policy can deliver victory, rather than defeat dressed up as success.