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Law firms are ditching legal aid work in their droves, especially in Wales and the southwest, according to Whitehall figures.
Answering a recent question in parliament from the Labour MP Gloria De Piero, Sam Gyimah, the justice minister, confirmed that the overall number of legal firms in the country had fallen by 20 per cent in the past five years. That translated to a drop from 2,991 in 2012 to 2,393 as of March this year.
London had the smallest fall in percentage terms, of 13 per cent, but it also had the biggest drop in overall numbers, down from 713 to 619.
Gyimah said that Wales had suffered the most as law firms quit the legal aid market. There are nearly 30 per cent fewer legal aid providers in the principality compared with five years ago.
Legal aid provision in Bristol was down 28 per cent, while there was a 25 per cent drop in Manchester.
Commenting on the figures to the website Legal Voice, Carol Storer, the director of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, said: “We hear from legal aid practitioners on a regular basis, those pulling out of legal aid work as well as those who are trying to deliver a service but find the low rates of pay and the level of unpaid bureaucracy makes the work unsustainable.
“They live in hope but not expectation that rates will be increased. These are committed, knowledgeable lawyers who want to work in their community but until banks accept it to secure overdrafts, they cannot live on idealism.”