There have been large recent news events, the election of Barack Obama and the near-collapse of the dominant system of banking in the western democracies, but, in among the big stuff, small, human sized news can easily get overlooked. My father reminded me of this with a short piece of observation about access to the law, housing advice and legal aid in the United Kingdom. Over to my father;
Access to these resources is unhappily much more limited than it was twenty years ago, and the deterioration continues. Two recent instances show this: in East Hertfordshire, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau network has been compelled to cut spending by c.£100,000-00, and has decided to achieve it by merging two busy offices in the towns of Hertford and Ware.
Citizens Advice Centres provide help for people coping with legal, financial or, housing problems. They are registered charities but, receive state, or taxpayer funding from local authorities.
These two centres serve some 40,000 plus people, plus those living in a large swathe of the surrounding countryside. At a time of economic crisis, depression and rising unemployment this cost-saving measure is perverse and socially damaging.
And number two;
The other example is larger and more brutal, the announcement, made by the Legal Services Commission, that eight of their regional offices are to close and that 600 staff are to be discharged.
These moves are disturbing, not to say pernicious, The Labour Party used to stand for social justice, and some of their supporters – to be fair – still do. How the present Government can let these two sets of measures pass unchallenged shows a bleak indifference to pressing human needs.
For extra detail, the Hertfordshire example is a decision of East Herts District Council, which is currently run by the Conservatives, although, they blame central government funding policy. The cuts at the Legal Services Commmission are the direct responsibility of its funding body, the national government.
For the record, my father could be reasonably described as habitual Conservative voter and has worked in legal aid for much of his life.