Green Party Councillors are asking Sheffield City Council to back local advice services and support the Justice for All campaign at the full council meeting on September 7th.
The motion responds to Government plans for legal aid, which will cut low-key, preventative advice in welfare benefits, employment law, housing and other areas, as well as cuts in anti-discrimination advice. Sheffield Green Party submitted one of the 5000 responses to the consultation – almost all opposed the cuts.
Councillor Jillian Creasy said, “Equal access to justice is the foundation of a civilised society. These cuts are bad for individuals, bad for communities and bad for the nation – even the NHS’ own lawyers say the cuts will cost the NHS more as more no-win no-fee claims are brought instead.”
Councillor Rob Murphy added, “Most of the cuts fall on local advice centres like Sharrow CAB in Central Ward – the Green Party values these services and would have completely reversed the cut in council support at the last budget. Legal aid funds work that stops people becoming homeless, getting into debt or suffering violence from an abusive partner. It’s shocking and wrong that the Government wants to cut advice to 68% of the million people who currently receive it.”
Green Party Councillors urge the Council – and members of the public – to join the Justice for All campaign.
1. A copy of the Green Councillors’ motion is below.
Notice Of Motion Given By Councillor Jillian Creasy
That this Council:-
- Notes with concern the Government’s legal aid reforms, which would remove access to free legal advice for an estimated 650,000 individuals a year, at a time when they most need it.
- Notes the impact of the proposals is to:
- remove the provision of most free legal advice in employment, family, consumer contracts, welfare benefits, debt, immigration and housing currently provided by private practice solicitors, Citizens Advice Bureaux, Sheffield Law Centre and independent advice centres.
- Cut the provision of effective advice at preventative stages, which currently avoids the need for legal proceedings
- Cut a massive 77% of legal aid funding to voluntary sector organisations such as Sheffield’s local advice centres.
- Increase the cost of litigation to the NHS, according to the NHS Litigation Authority, whose Chief Executive has stated the cuts “would result in an overall increase in public expenditure”
- Also notes the Government proposal to “reform” the Equality and Human Rights Commission by stopping it funding local advice services to provide free anti-discrimination advice.
- Believes that equal access to justice is the foundation of civilised society.
- Believes these cuts will have only a negative impact on the citizens of Sheffield who need timely and accurate legal advice as to their rights and responsibilities.
- Commits to all possible steps to support the local advice sector, which has established itself as providing excellent service for the citizens of Sheffield.
- Therefore resolves to support the Justice for All campaign for free legal advice, which aims to ensure everyone is treated fairly under the law, and directs the Chief Executive to sign up this council to the campaign.
- Resolves that this Council directs the Chief Executive to send a copy of this motion to the Secretary of State for Justice (Ken Clarke), the Home Secretary and Minister for women and equality (Theresa May), the Deputy Prime Minister (Nick Clegg) and all local MPs, urging them to support free legal advice.
2. The Government proposes to end all legal aid for people needing advice in welfare benefits, employment, debt advice, relationship breakdown and child contact and residence, clinical negligence, consumer problems, criminal injuries, education, housing disrepair, rehousing, immigration rights and other areas. 97% (3,380) of respondents opposed these cuts.
3. Justice for All is the campaign for free legal advice, to ensure everyone is treated fairly under the law. Supporters can sign up http://www.justice-for-all.org.uk/. Local campaigners have been holding a weekly vigil on Fridays at 5pm outside Sheffield Town Hall.