Page last updated at 14:15 GMT, Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Legal aid body 'to cut 600 staff'

Legal documents
The Legal Services Commission helps two million people a year

A government body which administers legal aid is to close eight regional processing centres.

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) says the move will deliver better value for money for taxpayers.

But the GMB union claims the changes will lead to 600 job losses among the 1,700-strong workforce before 2013.

Each year, the Commission provides information, advice and legal representation to two million people a year in England and Wales.

The service also helps people with civil legal problems such as family breakdown, death and housing.

In a statement, the LSC said it would transfer processing work to its offices in London, Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham and Jarrow in Tyneside.

It said it would retain a local presence with some advisors at its other locations in Manchester, Chester, Leeds, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Brighton and Reading

The statement said changes would take effect no earlier than mid-2009 but did not reveal how many staff would go.

Fewer staff

It said: "More efficient processes and increased use of electronic working will enable us to provide these services with fewer staff and to deliver better value for money for the taxpayer."

Talks are continuing with unions over the restructuring.

GMB national officer Rehana Azam said: "This is very disappointing news for the Legal Services Commission staff and for people seeking legal aid.

"We will fight a vigorous campaign to minimise the job losses and will seek a meeting with Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, to discuss these proposed job losses.

"It is essential to ensure that legal aid services to the public are maintained in these times of recession and it is particularly important there are no cutbacks in the services to people facing debts and housing problems."

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