Removing Barriers to Competition

We are pleased that the government is considering removing barriers to entry for alternative business models in legal services. Within the context of local government very few local authorities have set up ABS (Alternative Business Structure) models to provide legal services with the exception of councils like Harrow, Barnet, Essex, Northampton and Cambridgeshire. Cornwall believes that many authorities have been put off developing their own ABS models because of the real barriers faced in terms of disproportionate licensing requirements and regulatory burdens imposed by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority which adds significant cost and delay to the process and effectively acts as a deterrent.

The Council supports any proposals for changes that would, if made, reduce barriers to the licensing of, and regulatory burdens on, legal services businesses that are licensed as ABS, bringing the legislative framework for these businesses more in line with that for other legal services businesses.

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We believe this would open up the legal services sector to local government encouraging greater competition and affordable legal advice for consumers, particularly those in the wider public sector including third sector organisations, and housing associations, as well as other local government organisations to whom the ABS could market its services. In Cornwall Legal’s case we are developing a much more commercial approach to delivering legal services and it may well be with a future relaxation in the regulatory requirements that we would develop our own ABS as a wholly owned trading company of the Council. This would provide us with greater freedoms about acting for more ‘private clients’ and more freedoms around salaries that reflect the market that being aligned to restrictive and generic local authority pay scales.

We await with interest the Governments' response which is due to be published on the 26th August 2016.