Legal aid axe to hit resort hard

Chris Beverley, Partner at Blackhurst Budd Solicitors, Blackpool.
Chris Beverley, Partner at Blackhurst Budd Solicitors, Blackpool.
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CUTS to how legal help is provided to low-income households will hit Blackpool families worst of all.

That is the claim of family solicitor Christopher Beverley from Blackhurst Budd solicitors as the Ministry of Justice prepares to slash Legal Aid funding.

It will hit the town hard as Blackpool boasts one of the highest divorce rates in the country.

A simple divorce application costs £400 in court fees.

From April 1, families seeking a divorce or court intervention in private child care matters will no longer be able to access funding currently available through Legal Aid.

Mr Beverley, a partner at the Church Street firm, said: “This is not good news for the type of population we have in Blackpool.

“The 2011 census has Blackpool as the divorce capital of the UK. 13 per cent of people in Blackpool have indicated they are or want to divorce their spouse or civil partner – the national average is nine. We have one of the highest ratios in the country.

“These cuts to legal aid will have a major impact on the people here.”

Mr Beverley said people may feel they have to start representing themselves in court, which would cause a massive delay in proceedings which would have to be halted to explain the legal process.

He added: “There are a lot of people for whom going to court can be a very daunting task for them, very often at a time when they are feeling vulnerable anyway.

“Their partner has just left them, they are trying to sort arrangements for children and they have to go to court unrepresented because they cannot afford it when their partner may be able to.”

Blackhurst Budd is in the process of putting together a fixed fee package.

Mr Beverley said: “They (divorcing couples) will know in advance what their costs will be.”

To mitigate the effect on Legal Aid cuts, the Government is pulling together a pot of £25m for a public mediation scheme to encourage families to include a third party in their proceedings, making them quicker and saving couples going through the courts.

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