Birmingham Law Centre closes
LAG has learnt today that Birmingham Law Centre® has closed. A message on the Law Centre’s public telephone line informs creditors to contact the Official Receiver. Clients are told that they will receive a letter from the Law Centre about their case. No-one from the Law Centre was available to comment.
The Law Centre received £160,000 in income from legal aid until the changes in scope were introduced in April this year. In February, the Law Centre’s chief executive officer, Peter Lowen, told LAG that while its legal aid income was set to reduce by half, he hoped to implement a restructuring plan if cash could be found to keep the service running while this was done (see ‘Birmingham Law Centre under closure threat’). Birmingham City Council was approached by the Law Centre for help, but it was unable to offer a grant.
Birmingham Law Centre had employed four solicitors, eight caseworkers and three support workers, but had experienced severe financial pressures in recent years after losing a grant of over £156,000 to provide advice in family centres under the government’s Sure Start initiative which was cut last year. In September 2012, Tyndallwoods, a large firm of solicitors, closed its offices in Birmingham city centre when it took the decision to pull out of legal aid work due to cuts in fees.
According to LAG’s director, Steve Hynes, ‘The loss of Birmingham Law Centre is an enormous blow to access to civil justice for local people. While some excellent firms providing legal aid services remain in the Midlands, Birmingham is not particularly well served.’