JUSTICE secretary Chris Grayling has issued a stark reality check to barristers and solicitors preparing to strike tomorrow over legal aid cuts — “your action will not make a difference”.
The Conservative cabinet minister has been in Bolton tonight attending an event with local councillors and the party’s Bolton West candidate for the 2015 general election, Chris Green.
Courts in Bolton are set for disruption as solicitors and barristers walk out in protest at Mr Grayling’s attempts to make £220m of cuts from the legal aid budget by 2018-19.
The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has organised the day of action and claims lawyers face cuts to fees of up to 30 per cent as a result of Mr Grayling’s plans.
Speaking exclusively to The Bolton News, Mr Grayling said: “I have not been surprised by the strength of feeling we have faced.
“But, strike action won’t change anything I’m afraid to say.
“It does not change the financial reality we face, that we must make difficult decisions across the board."
He also said he hoped members of the legal sector would be “realistic” about the changes we face.
“We are cutting legal aid because we have no choice, to balance our budget,” said Mr Grayling.
“Legal aid forms a substantial part of the department’s budget – it was inevitable it would be affected.
“Legal aid is not being singled out, many other sections of the department are being cut as well.
“So I’m afraid that we had to try to bring the costs down, but we have tried to do so in a way that will mitigate the impact caused.
“I make no attempt to pretend that there won’t be some differences as a result of the cuts.”
The CBA say plans to slash the number of criminal solicitor practises from 1,600 to 526 are being pushed ahead with.
This latest strike action had been threatened by the CBA if Mr Grayling failed to provide a “positive” response and willingness to engage with the profession.
Barristers walked out of court for half a day in January.