A COMMUNITY law centre that provides free legal advice in Glasgow to more than 3000 people each year is to close. Lawyers at the East End Community Law Centre are mounting a legal challenge over the loss of £250,000 council funding. The centre, which was set up 12 years ago and has seven full-time staff, including two lawyers and a legal trainee, will shut next year. It follows a shake-up of advice services by Glasgow City Council.
It has awarded a £2.4million contract to a new consortium of services, East Glasgow Advice, which is made up of Citizens Advice Bureau, the Greater Easterhouse Money Advice Project and Govan Law Centre. Hundreds of people in the East End have signed a petition opposing the law centre closure, which is in the Ladywell centre in Duke Street. Its lawyers are mounting a legal challenge of the loss of funding, arguing the £2.4m contract was the highest value of nine the council advertised in September 2008. Marcus Parham, a solicitor at the centre, said: "We deal with more than 3000 clients each year and bring in well over £3million to the community.
"A lot of our cases deal with employment tribunals and benefit claims. It is a lot of money for the most vulnerable people in the area. About 70% of our clients are disabled."
"We will try to deal with as many cases are possible, but we are now having to turn people away."
"There is also ongoing litigation over the loss of funding."
Glasgow East MP John Mason said: "I am concerned there will be a reduction in the provision of legal advice in the East End. The centre deals with around 3000 cases each year and it is my understanding the new service will have the capacity to deal with only 250."
A council spokesman said: "In the past, the 27 organisations that made up Glasgow's Advice Network had been developed without any over-arching clear strategic framework, resulting in fragmented service provision across the city. "The way money advice, welfare rights, housing and employment and legal advice services were provided required modernisation." "We moved to a commissioning approach, which saw a consortium called East Glasgow Advice be awarded the contract in this area of the city." "Changing the way we fund these advice services will mean improved service provision across the city, in addition to providing a fair and transparent allocation of resources."
Publication date 15/10/09 Thanks Caroline Wilson.
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