Scottish Legal Complaints Commission refuses to repay millions in public funds. IT HAS EMERGED through investigations that the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, who are angrily refusing calls from consumers & politicians to repay the huge sums of public funds, over £1.7million so far put in by the Scottish Government to create the hapless complaints quango, have a currently serving board member who also holds a paid position on another Scottish Government quango, the Accounts Commission for Scotland which inspects public finances in Scotland’s local government sector, claiming to help achieve ‘best value’ in public services.
Dr Linda Pollock, paid for SLCC & Accounts Commission quango appearances. Documents now reveal that Dr Linda Pollock, a board member personally appointed to the hugely expensive, scandal clad Scottish Legal Complaints Commission by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, receiving over £209 per day for putting in appearances to the limited number of SLCC board meetings currently published, also receives a staggering £6,216 a year for only 24 days work as an appointee to the Accounts Commission, whose main role is to secure the audit of local authorities in Scotland and to help those bodies to achieve Best Value in their activities. The Accounts Commission website also reveals Dr Pollock holds another quango position within the Nursing and Midwifery Council for which she receives £260 per day remuneration
From the release of the SLCC’s board members expenses claims by the Scottish Government, it can be revealed today that Dr Pollock claimed a staggering £15,635.39 in expenses during the first nine months of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s work during the time it received nearly £2 million from the Scottish Government, and before the law complaints quango even did any work on consumer complaints against members of the legal profession. The figures also show that collectively, the SLCC’s board members claimed a staggering £130K in expenses for the first nine months of 2008 on everything from travel, hotel rooms, to lunches and even car parking.
Best Value ? : SLCC Board members Expenses – What the public paid for.
Interestingly, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission fought against the release of the above information, claiming its board members would suffer ‘mental health’ problems if the public & legal profession were told just how much was being claimed in expenses. I covered this in an earlier article, here : Expenses secrecy scandal as Scottish Legal Complaints Commission seeks ban on information requests to protect lawyers ‘mental health & safety’
SLCC Chair Jane Irvine. Jane Irvine of the SLCC was asked for comment on whether the SLCC intended to repay the public purse from the vast surplus funds currently held by the Legal Complaints Commission, who insiders now confirm are studying ways of possibly using the millions held by the quango to appease calls from the Law Society of Scotland to reduce the ‘complaints levy’ which pays for the SLCC’s operational costs of considering complaints made by the public against solicitors & law firms in Scotland. However, the SLCC refused to comment, and are rumoured to be very angry the issue of repaying the near £2 million taxpayer funded start up costs has resurfaced in the public arena.
You can read my earlier coverage of the SLCC’s first annual report, announcing the gigantic surplus of £1.5 million here : Scottish Legal Complaints Commission reveals it passed most complaints about lawyers back to Law Society, has failed to act on Master Policy report and the Law Society of Scotland’s call to use the surplus to pay back solicitors, instead of many financially stricken public services in Scotland, who could do with the money more than lawyers back pockets, here : Consumer protection ‘a low priority’ as Law Society demand Legal Complaints Commission’s ‘crooked lawyer’ complaints levy be reduced
Politicians and consumer organisations have now joined the call for the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to repay the vast amount of public funds which helped to start up the quango.
David Whitton, Labour MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden David Whitton, MSP for Strathkelvin & Bearsden commented on calls for the law complaints body’s 1.5million surplus to be used to reduce the levy instead of repaying public sector input of nearly 2 million said : “I most. Certainly do not believe the surplus should be used to reduce the levy. If there is a surplus of that size it could be used to greater effect elsewhere in the justice system say in funding more drug and alcohol rehab facilities or running more stringent community sentence orders.”
Mr Whitton went on to call for intervention from the Justice Secretary in the row over the huge amounts of money held by the SLCC, saying “The Justice secretary should be getting involved to ask why the money is not being put to the use it was intended for.”
A senior official with one of Scotland’s main consumer organisations said today he believed the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission should repay taxpayers the full amounts pumped in by the Scottish Government to start the hapless law complaints body.
He said : “Clearly the SLCC are being selfish in refusing to repay money which could be better spent on public services such as education, health and local government services, who are all being forced to cut back on jobs and the services they provide. It is very unfair for the SLCC to be sitting on that much money when the rest of the country is in trouble.”
When asked about the revelations that SLCC board members also sat on the Audit Commission quango, he said : “If I were in that position, I would find it very difficult to reconcile my duty to ensure best value for public services while at the same time sitting on a quango which is sitting on nearly 2 million pounds, mainly for its own benefit or that of the legal profession.”
The Accounts Commission have refused to make any detailed comment, but were visibly angry in communications over the revelations. Their spokesman would only say : “As the Accounts Commission has no statutory role in regulating or scrutinising the SLCC, this is not an issue over which it can take a position.”
No one was available at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to answer further questions this afternoon and the question of whether the SLCC can be made to repay the millions put in by taxpayers will now be taken up by politicians & campaigners.
Better giving the money to hospitals, education and keeping us all safe & sound, rather than simply emptying it into board members expenses claims and the back pockets of the legal profession ?