Cuts are Anti-Scottish and anti-small business
The Scottish Law Agents Society (SLAS) have written a forceful letter to Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) noting with concern the terms of a pro forma letter which has been sent to a number of Firms, believed to be 30 at the last count, striking them from the LBG Panel with immediate effect.
A previous announcement from Lloyds a few months ago indicated that Scottish Solicitors would be removed if not using ARTL. SLAS responded positively at that time by arranging a seminar for all those not signed up. It was successful and the letter suggests perhaps too successful in that regard.
SLAS write that it would appear that the true agenda all along was to reduce the panel which many had suspected was behind their original stance. SLAS have reminded LBG assurances were given at that time that that was not what was to happen. The Law Society of Scotland (LSS) were told that it applied only to England and Wales and that different considerations applied in Scotland. That would now not appear to be the case.
SLAS have also challenged the method of announcing the cuts. They believe any such review should be transparent and LBG have not specified a minimum level of transactions over the course of the last 12 months. SLAS have requested that LBG reveals the transaction level so as to assist appeals.
SLAS are concerned that no mention is made of the right to appeal in the LBG withdrawal letter. SLAS only know that there is meant to be an appeal as there was a press release from the LSS. “That is a huge error and we trust you will clarify and correct the position by writing to all affected firms immediately to advise of your error immediately” wrote SLAS Secretary Michael Sheridan.
A series of questions have been raised re the appeal process including:-
1) How is the appeal to be made? Letter or hearing or both?
2) Who is to hear the appeal?
3) Is this a different person from the original person that made the decision to cut?
4) Is the person to hear the appeal qualified and experienced in handling appeals and independent of the person or department making the cut?
5) How long will they take to give a decision?
6) Were there appeals in England & Wales and were any allowed and on what grounds?
LBG have been asked to specify exactly what “different considerations for Scotland” they were referring to in previous correspondence with LSS. SLAS can see no discernable difference in approach.
SLAS have pointed out there are many rural Firms in Scotland with one and two Partners and they cannot possibly have the same number of transaction as a large scale city Firm.
SLAS regard this unfortunate decision as anti-Scottish and anti-small business.
The SLAS letter points out the number of group Companies and brands within LBG which appear to give LBG an overly dominant position in Scotland and concludes “That position has responsibilities and requires not to be abused and we urge you to think again”
Issued 16 November 2010 by
Ian C Ferguson
Spokesman of SLAS
B 0141 552 3422 M 07891 992331