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Legal aid: Birmingham City Council says Law Centre will not be rescued

Birmingham City Council have reaffirmed that it will not offer the Birmingham Law Centre financial assistance, despite the threat of closure and a rally by local activists.

Leader Sir Albert Bore addressed a full meeting of the city council to say that no additional funds would be made available.

The Birmingham Law Centre is an independent, not-for-profit legal advice agency, operating under contract from the Legal Service Commission to provide legal aid.

The centre offers advice on debt, welfare and benefits, employment and housing law.

The centre has been open for 25 years and handles between 1,500 and 2,000 cases each year. It is the only community-based law centre in Birmingham offering free, solicitor-led legal advice.

Local legal-aid services are threatened by the coalition government's plans to cut £350m from the £2.2bn legal aid budget. The cuts look likely to mean the closure of many free advice centres.

"We differ from no-win, no-fee firms in that we're not ambulance chasers. We work to get people housed, supported or given the right care package," said Michael Bates, a legal advisor at the centre.

Birmingham City Council do not, and never have, provided any funding to the centre, but the unique cuts in funding are placing it in a position it will not have faced before.

The centre has many supporters, one is Jamil Sanneh.

"[The centre] helped me from being destitute and homeless, they're doing a really good job. It would be crazy if they closed," he told the BBC.

The council has offered to meet with the centre's management in order to discuss potential future funding options.

Source:

Council will not rescue Birmingham Law Centre (BBC News)