The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has hit back following criticism from the Law Society of Scotland that it was "costing more for doing less".

Publishing its response yesterday to the SLCC's budget and levy proposals for the year from 1 July 2021, the Society said its research confirmed that the average cost per complaint handled by the SLCC had risen from £1,300 when it was first formed in 2008, to an expected £3,300 this year, and protested that it was proposing "almost record" levels of spending when complaint numbers were falling.

However SLCC chief executive Neil Stevenson claimed this headline figure was misleading.

"In citing the £1,300 amount for the cost of complaints when we were set up as a comparator the Law Society use a figure they know to be misleading, from their own data and from us previously raising concerns about its use by them", he said.

"Of the 1,217 complaints we received in 2008-09, 1,014 (83%) were passed to the Law Society to be processed under the transition arrangements, rather than the SLCC doing any work on them. For the cases we processed, the cost per case, using the Society’s method of calculation, would be double what it is now, and so tells a fundamentally different story about our efficiency now compared to then. These transition arrangements ran into the 2010-11 operating year of the SLCC." 

He called on the Society to reveal the cost of the large number of staff it had working on service complaints at that time, so that the aggregate cost of service complaints across the two bodies could be seen. "They have never done that. By comparison, every year of audited data for the SLCC is published as would be the case for any modern, transparent, public interest regulator."

Claiming the SLCC had made significant improvements in its performance in recent years, Mr Stevenson added: "We recognise the frustration of the profession at costs. However, the profession may be being let down by a professional body which would rather use misleading data to grab headlines, which then generate extra unnecessary work in rebuttal... It would be better to work collaboratively based on real data and evidence to look at options to improve the system for all."

The decision on a final budget later this month would take account of the external context and the points raised in responses received, and "It is likely, but not certain that levies could be adjusted based on changed business data during that period."