Locals join MP in cuts protest

Campaigners and Newham residents joined East Ham MP Stephen Timsm to protest against Government cuts to legal aid.

Almost 1000 people signed a petition in East Ham designed to highlight the impact of the proposed cuts on the vulnerable, leaving them nowhere to turn for help but their MP.

The petition, which was organised by the Justice for All group, will be presented to Parliament this week (week beginning June 6).

Stephen Timms, who supported the petition, said: “The proposed cuts to legal aid will mean huge queues of people with complex legal problems turning to their MP, when most of us just don’t have the legal expertise to help. I urge government to take a serious look at alternative ways of cutting the legal aid bill, such as those produced by the Law Society.”

Government’s proposals would see over �350m docked from legal aid, much of which is spent by local advice charities and Citizens Advice bureaus on help with issues like debt, housing problems, or family law. It is estimated over 650,000 people on low incomes will lose support, including thousands in Newham, if the changes come into effect in 2012.

Campaigners say there are other ways to cut the bill while the Law Society has produced a package of cuts that would save the same amount without reducing support for vulnerable people.

Will Horwitz, Justice for All spokesman, said: “Thousands of people each year in east London rely on legal aid for help in often desperate situations. Cutting it will leave people with nowhere to turn, and is a false economy - without advice, people’s problems spiral out of control costing more down the line.”

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Research from the New Economics Foundation found early advice can save up to �10 for every �1 invested, and Citizens Advice suggest benefits advice can save over �8 for every �1 spent.