Legal professionals will see a 5% reduction in the general levy they pay the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission for 2022-23.

The SLCC has confirmed the budget that it published for consultation in January, despite representations from the Law Society of Scotland that it should go further in controlling its costs.

Published responses to the consultation show that the only comments on the full budget and levy proposals came from the Society.

The SLCC said that as well as considering the consultation responses received, its board took into account data and projections on complaint numbers, projected costs, business performance and efficiency gains and the organisation’s financial position.

Having looked at whether different models for apportionment of the levy might be possible, the board has concluded that it does not have the data to take this forward this year, but is committed to exploring this further with the professional bodies and reporting publicly in advance of next year’s budget.

The budget and planned expenditure which will be laid before the Scottish Parliament next month are slightly up (by less than 1%), as the SLCC invests in IT and reform which should lead to longer term savings. However, two years of lower complaint numbers and further work to improve efficiencies mean the shortfall can be supported from reserves.

Chair Jim Martin commented: "The board was clear that savings from efficiencies should allow a reduction in the levy paid by lawyers, but that investment was also needed in those areas that could lead to greater savings in future. We’re pleased that we have been able to use reserves to support both of those aims this year.

"Otherwise, our budget is entirely focused on delivering efficient and effective complaint handling, in delivering our other statutory duties, including oversight of the professional bodies’ complaint handling and redress processes, and in the support functions that allow us to deliver that work.

"My thanks go to the Board and staff team whose hard work over the past years mean we are in this strong position."

He added: "I have shared before our great disappointment that the greatest avoidable cost in our system comes from lawyers failing to meet our statutory request to provide the files we need to investigate complaints. The very strong, and supportive statement from the Law Society of Scotland on this issue, which they have described as causing 'unacceptable delays' to our ability to deal with complaints, is very welcome. We look forward to working with the Society to tackle this issue and we share their stated aim to see significant progress in this area over the year ahead. We will publish in our annual report whether actions have impacted the non-compliance rate."

CEO Neil Stevenson observed: "We noted feedback that projects such as work to reduce our property overhead, streamline IT, or implement a new statutory instrument, expected this year, which should make complaints more efficient, were seen by some as a lack of focus on our core work of complaints, statutory oversight of the professional bodies’ complaints and redress processes, publishing guidance, and trend reporting. However, in conversations direct with legal business owners there was greater commercial understanding that if you want savings in cost, these are areas you have to explore.

"Learning from best practice and our own experience over the past two years will help us to shape a new, more efficient and sustainable operating model, with a focus on our people, our IT and our property needs."