Saturday, 7 October 2017

Is the buy-to-let market a property bubble waiting to burst?

GLC's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly writes: "SCOTLAND’S private rented sector is a phenomenon. It has trebled in size over the last 15 years and now makes up over 15 per cent of all Scottish households. For our cities the story is more profound.  

Scottish Government figures published last month show that private lets represent 19 per cent of all homes in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Perth. For Dundee the figure rises to 23 per cent and peaks at 26 per cent in Edinburgh.

How did this happen? Almost half a million homes have been lost from Scotland’s social rented sector since the right to buy was introduced in 1980. While the Scottish Parliament ended that right last July, the impact coupled with the growth of the buy-to-let mortgage market has fuelled the private let sector".  Read the full column in The Herald here (Saturday, 7 October 2017).
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Friday, 6 October 2017

GLC's Principal Solicitor appointed to Scottish Government's Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Action Group

A panel of homelessness experts from across Scotland met for the first time yesterday (5 October 2017)  as work to address the challenges of rough sleeping, and how temporary accommodation can best be utilised, officially got underway.

Announced as part of the Programme for Government last month, the short-term Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group came together with the immediate task of outlining urgent recommendations to minimise rough sleeping this winter.

The group, which draws on expertise from across the sector, will examine how the Scottish Government’s commitment to end rough sleeping can be achieved and how best a new £50 million fund can support this.  Membership of the Action Group includes:
  • Jon Sparkes, chief executive, Crisis (chair)
  • Russell Barr, former moderator, Church of Scotland
  • Maggie Brunjes, Glasgow Homelessness Network
  • Mike Dailly, Govan Law Centre
  • David Duke, Street Soccer Scotland
  • Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Heriot Watt University
  • Josh Littlejohn, Social Bite
  • Lorraine McGrath, Simon Community Scotland/Street Wise
  • Susanne Miller, Glasgow City Council
  • John Mills, Fife Council & ALACHO
  • Shona Stephen, Queens Cross Housing Association
  • Alison Watson, Shelter Scotland
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: "The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group will be recommending immediate steps we can take to minimise rough sleeping, both this winter and for good, as well as ways to transform temporary accommodation. The members bring a wide range of expertise, experience and enthusiasm and I know they will provide invaluable advice".

"The group will be engaging with all partners who deal with homelessness, including in local authorities and the third sector, so we can harness the wealth of knowledge available. We are committed to ending rough sleeping, preventing homelessness, and transforming outcomes for those who experience it. The action group and the new £50m fund are important steps in achieving this."
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Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Civil court & tribunal solicitor vacancy at Govan Law Centre

GOVAN LAW CENTRE seeks a qualified solicitor to join our legal team in Glasgow.  Competitive salary. We are seeking a qualified solicitor with good civil court and, preferably, tribunal experience.  Experience in the legal fields of housing, homelessness, employment, equalities and public law would be an advantage.

The successful candidate will work from our main office in Orkney Street in Govan.  Regular court appearances will be required.  This is a full time post, however, job sharing will be considered.

This position is in our general court and legal team and will include provision of legal advice and representation for clients in terms of mainly housing, homelessness, employment, debt, public law, community care and disability rights and welfare rights. It will also involve providing legal representation at court and tribunals.

There will be an opportunity to become involved in some of our public interest litigation, test case work, law reform and social policy work.
The successful candidate MUST:
1.     Hold a degree in Scots Law
2.     A diploma in legal practice
3.     An unrestricted Law Society of Scotland practising certificate
4.     Have good research and analytical skills
5.     Ability to work well under supervision
It would be desirable if the candidate had:
1.     Knowledge and experience of issues relating to social welfare law
2.     Experience in appearing in court or tribunal settings
3.     Experience in dealing with vulnerable clients
4.     Experience in handling a large and varied workload
5.     Experience in working within a team setting
Please send a CV and covering letter explaining why you are interested in this post to: Mike Dailly, Principal Solicitor and Solicitor Advocate, Govan Law Centre, 18-20 Orkney Street, Glasgow, G51 2BX or m@ govanlc.comCLOSING DATE: Friday 6th October 2017 at 4pm.

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Monday, 28 August 2017

Second trainee solicitor opportunity at Govan Law Centre in 2017

Due to the expansion of our services, this is an exciting opportunity to join the largest community led law centre in Scotland as a trainee solicitor.

The position would be based in our offices in Govan and the successful candidate would work with a dedicated team of solicitors and caseworkers assisting the most vulnerable client groups to assert their legal rights. 

The work would include – preventing evictions in the social rented sector and the PRS sector, homelessness improving living conditions, illegal evictions, mortgage arrears, employment, debt, discrimination and court and tribunal appearances.

Application details are here. Closing date, 4pm on Friday 15 September 2017. 

Please note this new post is addition to our Justice Fellowship trainee solicitor post (the details of which are here: https://jff.thelegaleducationfoundation.org/host/govan-law-centre-2017/)
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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

GLC manages 54% of housing debt in Glasgow in 2016/17 under GCC Financial Inclusion Partnership

Figures for Glasgow's Financial Inclusion Partnership confirm that Partnership advice agencies managed almost £11m of housing debt for clients across the City in 2016/17.

Of that total, Govan Law Centre (GLC) managed 54% of all housing debt in the City for its clients (homeowners and tenants in both the social and private rented sectors) - £5,920,241.93 of an overall City-wide figure of £10,949,317 in 2016/17.

This represents an 8% increase on GLC's managed housing debt figure for last year (2015/16); with housing debt across Glasgow (under Financial Inclusion Partnership agencies) having increased by almost 13.5%.
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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

2017 Annual Report for Govan Law Centre published

GLC has published its 2017 Annual Report, which is available here as a PDF.  We believe everyone, not just those who can afford it, must have access to high quality, professional legal services. In fact, in our view vulnerable people now need legal services more. This is why we take our services out into the community with more home visits, rights hubs, community surgeries and why we work in partnerships with other organisations.

We also know the law plays a crucial part in tackling poverty and discrimination and we are determined to play our part in improving the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people. We hope you agree that Govan Law Centre has been doing a good job: preventing homelessness, increasing incomes, improving housing conditions, helping clients to repay debts and righting injustices.
However we are never complacent, we know the face of poverty continues to change. We know we must continue to learn and develop our services to meet the changing needs of vulnerable people: our ageing population, increasing numbers of those in low paid work, increasing numbers of private tenants, people who are coming to live here in a new country, those who feel vulnerable because of our changing relationship with the world, or the persistence of poverty and discrimination in our communities.

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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Housing association tenant wins 'fair rent' appeal before Inner House of the Court of Session: Wright v. Elderpark Housing Association

GLC has been successful in a statutory appeal before the Inner House of the Court of Session in the case of Wright v. Elderpark Housing Association [2017] CSIH 54.

On 4 August 2017, the Lords, having resumed consideration of the appeal against the decision of the Private Rented Housing Committee dated 10 September 2016, answer each of the first, second and third questions of law listed in the appeal for the opinion of the court in the affirmative; accordingly allow the appeal; quash the Committee’s decision of 10 September 2016; remit the matter, with the opinion of even date, to a differently constituted Committee for re-hearing and determination with the direction the Committee apply the approach discussed within Lord Drummond Young’s opinion of even date when determining a fair rent in terms of section 48 of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984.

Giving the judgment of the court, Lord Drummond Young said: "[19] For these reasons I am of opinion that the level of rents charged for comparable rented properties in the private sector will generally be a relevant factor in setting the fair rent of housing association property.  Nevertheless, in such a case, for the reasons given by Lord Reid in Skilling v Arcari’s Exrs, supra, in the passage quoted at paragraph [11] above, it will frequently be appropriate for the rent officer or committee to begin with the rents that have been registered for comparable properties falling under Part VI of the Act (housing association properties), and to use the private rented market as a cross-check, making allowance for any scarcity in accordance with subsection (2) of section 48".

"Such a cross‑check may be appropriate to ensure that there is some correlation between the level of rents and general inflation.  Moreover, in their determination of fair rent, a rent officer or committee may give differing weights to evidence of registered rents of housing association properties and evidence of rents charged in the private sector, on the basis that the former are a more exact analogy than the latter.  Ultimately, the decision as to what is a fair rent is a matter of judgment for the Committee, and it may properly attach greater or lesser weight to comparables according to how closely in point they are. The existence of a recently fixed rent for a comparable housing association property may well be significant".

"[24] [...] In the present case, the fundamental flaw in the Committee’s reasoning was to disregard registered rents of comparable properties without good reason and to rely instead on a range of rents derived from an internet search without a proper assessment of whether the properties involved were truly comparable. 

[25]  I accordingly propose that we should quash the Committee’s decision of 10 September 2016 and remit the case back to a differently constituted Committee in order that a fair rent may be determined in accordance with section 48 of the 1984 Act, applying the approach discussed above".

The appellant was represented by GLC's Mike Dailly, Solicitor Advocate.
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GLC recuitment: Financial Inclusion/Capability Officer (closing date, 4pm, Friday 25 August 2017)

Financial Inclusion/Capability Officer

34 Hours per week, Full Time, Glasgow, Salary £26,500 p.a. Funded till September 2019 (Job Share Considered).  Location: Glasgow.

Role:  An exciting position within our new and innovative city wide Private Rented Sector Team providing dedicated services to PRS tenants at risk of homelessness.

The Financial Inclusion/Capability Officer, reporting to and working closely with the PRS team project coordinator/senior caseworker, will deliver full financial inclusion services with crisis intervention around rent arrears and debt: with full financial capability services tailored to the individual service user and in terms of MAS Financial Capability Framework. Welfare rights experience desirable. Working with and providing services to vulnerable individuals and groups.

The Team will be based in Govan Law Centre and covering outreach ‘Rights Hubs’ throughout Glasgow.  Click to open Job Description (opens as a Word document).
Organisation profile:  Govan Law Centre (GLC) is an independent, charitable community controlled law centre operating in Scotland.

Application notes: Please send or email CV and Covering Letter to: Alistair Sharp, Manager POHP, Govan Law Centre, Unit 4, 18-20 Orkney Street, Glasgow G51 2BX. m@ govanlc.com
Closing Date: 4:00pm Friday 25th August 2017.  Telephone 0141 440 2503.

If you have not received a response from Govan law Centre by Friday 1st September 2017 then you have been unsuccessful on this occasion.


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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

GLC recruitment: Solicitor post (closing date, noon, Friday 18 August 2017)

Solicitor – Govan Law Centre

34 Hours per week, Full Time, Glasgow, Salary commensurate with experience; Funded till September 2019 (Job Share Considered)

An exciting position within our innovative city wide Private Rented Sector Team providing dedicated services to PRS tenants at risk of homelessness

Working with the PRS team coordinator, Financial Inclusion Capability Officer and Welfare rights Officer, the qualified Solicitor with a good civil court and tribunal experience will be responsible for complex legal and court work, working with the client. Experience in housing, homelessness, employment, equalities law and public administrative law would be an advantage as is experience in working with vulnerable clients. 

Job Specification

Please send or email CV and Covering Letter to:
Candy Walker, Service Manager, Govan Law Centre, Unit 4, 18-20 Orkney Street, Glasgow G51 2BZ or by e-mail to cwalker @govanlc.com

Closing Date: NOON ON FRIDAY, 18 AUGUST 2017
Telephone 0141 440 2503

If you have not received a response from Govan Law Centre by Friday 25 August 2017, then you have been unsuccessful on this occasion.
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Ministers facing court challenge on ‘unlawful’ bankruptcy fees

The Herald, Saturday, 5 August 2017
Ministers have come under pressure to drop what critics argue are ‘unlawful” state fees imposed on people seeking bankruptcy. Some of the country’s most financially distressed debtors currently have to find at £90 to £200 to access legal protection from their creditors.

Campaigning lawyers from the Govan Law Centre say they believe these fees would fall foul of a UK Supreme Court decision this week outlawing up-front payments for employment tribunals. The centre’s principal solicitor, Mike Dailly, said he believed the fees, which are charged by a quango called the Accountant in Bankruptcy, were in breach of access to justice principles [read the full story in The Herald, Saturday, 5 August 2017).
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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Paul Laverty discusses casework and social policy experiences with Govan Law Centre

Members of the team at Govan Law Centre (GLC) were delighted to meet Paul Laverty this morning to discuss a wide range of social and legal issues affecting many people across Scotland and the UK.

The discussion with the 'I, Daniel Blake' writer was far reaching and passionate; from zero hours contracts and the gig economy, the private rented sector and rising household costs, consumer credit and debt, self-employment, bankruptcy, repossession, eviction and homelessness.

Paul practised as a Scots lawyer in Glasgow before becoming an international award winning screenwriter working with Ken Loach and the production company Sixteen Films.  With outstanding films such as Carla's Song, My Name is Joe, Bread and Roses, Sweet Sixteen, and The Wind That Shakes the Barley, GLC staff were honoured to assist Paul's research for his new project.
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Friday, 21 July 2017

Consumer Action Group visits Govan Law Centre

(From right) Dee Flanigan, Candy Walker, Marc Gander,
Mike Dailly and Lynn Fraser
Marc Gander, founder of the UK online consumer self-help community the Consumer Action Group dropped into Govan Law Centre (GLC) today.
Marc met some of the team at GLC and discussed various issues of benefit for consumers across the UK, with GLC's Mike Dailly.

Mike and GLC had worked very closely with Marc and members of CAG throughout the UK unfair bank charges campaign from 2004 to 2008, with CAG producing excellent self-help materials, free online support to litigants and strategic assistance along with GLC in bank charges litigation across the UK, together with Ray Cox QC and MoneySavingExpert.com.

CAG has over 385,000 registered users online, providing essential free support and tools to consumers across Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England.  Marc also enjoyed an afternoon tour of some key Govan landmarks and local history.
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Monday, 10 July 2017

Secretary of State for Scotland asked to advocate for vulnerable Scots affected by Jobcentre Plus closures

Govan Law Centre (GLC) has written to the Secretary of State for Scotland, Rt Hon David Mundell MP, expressing concern over the impact that the closure of ten Jobcentre Plus offices will have for vulnerable Scots. Six of the offices to be closed are in Glasgow.

GLC has called upon the Secretary of State for Scotland to ask the Prime Minister to reconsider this decision, which failing for Mr Mundell to advocate for a robust  strategy to mitigate the impact of this decision.  In our view that means revising the Claimant Commitment so those people affected are not subjected to unfair and unethical benefit sanctions, and to place Universal Credit on hold in affected areas. The text of the letter is set out in full below.

UPDATE (31 July 2017) - written response from the Scotland Office, dated 31 July 2017.


Rt Hon David Mundell MP,
Secretary of State for Scotland
Dear Mr Mundell  
 
Impact from the closure of Jobcentre Plus offices in Scotland

I am writing to you on behalf of Govan Law Centre (GLC) following the DWP’s decision to close six Jobcentre Plus offices in Glasgow. The offices to be closed are Langside, Parkhead, Easterhouse, Bridgeton, Anniesland and Maryhill.  
 
Our concerns apply equally to those other parts of Scotland losing Jobcentre Plus offices: Port Glasgow, Broxburn, Alexandria and Edinburgh. 

We are deeply concerned that this decision will act as a barrier to vulnerable people in Scotland accessing the social security system. The consequence of this will be an increase in homelessness, mental illness and other health problems, poverty, and human misery in Scotland.

As Secretary of State for Scotland we would ask if you would be willing to make representations to the Prime Minister to reconsider this decision – even at this late stage – which failing to advocate for the introduction a robust strategy to mitigate the prejudicial impact of this decision.

For example, in the localities where Jobcentre Plus offices will be closed it will be necessary to revise the ‘Claimant Commitment’, otherwise claimants will be subject to unfair, unethical and punitive sanctions to social security benefits.  Sanctions which may be impossible to avoid due to the cost and additional travel time following new geographical considerations.

Likewise, it will not be feasible to apply for online Universal Credit as there will be no access to computers in those Jobcentre Plus offices which are closed. People cannot simply use library facilities as they are not confidential, are already in use for many other purposes, and are not designed for this specific function. Universal Credit should be put on hold in these localities.

I look forward to your response at your earliest convenience.

Your sincerely

Mike Dailly
Solicitor Advocate
& Principal Solicitor

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Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Three things to remember when making a homeless application in Scotland

Govan Law Centre (GLC) is circulating information across Glasgow in our Prevention of Homelessness Rights Hubs to try and help people avoid common pitfalls when making a homeless application.

We've seen an increasing pattern where some people are indadvertedly prejudicing their legal rights through common mistakes. We have put together three straightforward messages to try and counter this:-

Don’t be put off. You’ve a right to get somewhere to stay. You might be told about ‘housing options’ or that there is no temporary accommodation available so come back later. Don’t be put off. If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness you have a right to make a homeless application. If you are homeless you have a right to obtain accommodation until the council makes its final decision.

Only give up existing accommodation if it’s an emergency. If you leave your home without a good reason you might be ‘intentionally homeless’ which means the council don’t have to give you a tenancy.  Always take free legal advice before you decide, unless it’s an emergency in which case put your safety first.

Never refuse an offer of a tenancy without taking advice. If you’ve made a homeless application and get an offer of a tenancy never just refuse it. If you do the council can say they have ‘discharged’ their duty, which means they don’t have to help you anymore. Instead, you can appeal it. Govan Law Centre can provide free legal advice how to appeal.


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Friday, 23 June 2017

How we can make Scots law more fair for consumers

This article first appeared as a column in the Sunday Herald on 18 June 2017.  Here GLC's Mike Dailly explains how we can make Scots law more fair for consumers.

It goes without saying that any good legal system should treat everyone equally. But what happens when it’s stacked in favour of a particular group of people? This can happen by accident as opposed to unfair design.

Scotland’s legal system has a number of injustices that seriously disadvantage consumers. These would be easy to fix in a Scottish Government Bill, especially as the Government in Scotland has already been reviewing ‘diligence’ – the process of enforcing debts.

Here are just a few that are in need of fixing. Getting on the rung of the homeowner ladder is elusive for most people these days. In practice young people or students starting-out will generally look to rent in the private rented sector.

It’s not unusual for landlords to look for a ‘guarantor’ – usually Mum or Dad, who is asked to sign a separate agreement guaranteeing any defaults by their tenant son or daughter. Sounds reasonable, but these guarantee agreements generally have a clause allowing the landlord to ‘register them for execution’. This means they can claim any sum without having to prove the debt in court.

In practice this is misused. I dealt with a case recently where the landlord had registered the guarantee agreement in the ‘Books of Council and Session’ in Edinburgh, claiming thousands in rent and damages to the flat. It was nonsense, but registration allows the landlord to obtain the equivalent of a court order.

This is clearly unfair. It’s completely one-sided, with no opportunity for you to challenge what could be an entirely fictitious claim. The first you might know about anything is when sheriff officers knock on your door.

In theory this could lead to you being made bankrupt, or worse still threaten the loss of the roof over your own head. In the case I was involved in, a court action had to be raised to interdict the use of the registered agreement, and ask a judge to reduce or cancel it. But the point is no private creditor should be able to get the equivalent of a court order on nothing more than their own say so.

This doesn’t only occur with guarantee agreements, it can happen to any homeowner in Scotland who has a dispute with their factor or neighbour. Under the 2004 Tenements (Scotland) Act, a property manager or neighbour in a tenement can register a ‘Notice of Potential Liability’ of a debt in the Land Register.

There is no need to prove the debt. The fact it’s registered against your title deeds means it is unlikely you will be able to sell your home without paying it. This system is open to abuse without any requirement for independent scrutiny. It was only three years ago the Scottish Government got round to introducing a form for the notice to be removed.

One of the most ubiquitous forms of injustice can occur with council tax disputes. You may be entitled to a single person discount, or council tax benefit, or perhaps the figure has just been miscalculated. Disagreements over council tax can hang around someone’s neck like an albatross.

Your local authority will often simply proceed to send what they think is your bill, together with a 10% surcharge to the sheriff court, who will issue a ‘summary warrant’. This is like a court decree. Since April 2008, you can now apply to the court for time to pay if you accept the debt.

But if the figure is wrong, technically you have a right to apply to the local Valuation Appeal Committee. Most people aren’t aware of this route, although even if they are it’s not fast, and doesn’t help if your council has passed the warrant to sheriff officers who are threatening various forms of recovery.

Local authorities in Scotland are also the worst offenders for making people bankrupt for arrears of three thousand pounds or more – even if they are disputed. Once bankrupt, with legal and trustee fees, plus 8% statutory interest, a debt of £3,000 can mushroom into £15,000 to £20,000. This isn’t in the public interest, especially, if the original debt was wrong.

A final example of an area of law in need of reform must be the Scottish Government’s Debt Arrangement Scheme. It was designed to enable people in financial difficulties to obtain respite to make payments to their creditors in a manageable way.

In practice, people who use the Scheme end up paying back 100% of their debts over 7 to 8 years. Once discharged from the Scheme their credit rating may be affected for up to six years. Contrast this with trust deeds, which you can access from private firms. You can pay back as little as 10% of your debts over four years.

Why do we have a public scheme that offers no real incentive to Scottish consumers, giving them an impaired credit rating that could last as long as 14 years? The balance is wrong. There is an easy fix these problems. It just takes the will to do it.

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Thursday, 15 June 2017

Challenging decisions to reduce social care in Scotland

In a judicial review permission hearing today (15 June 2017), Glasgow City Council (GCC) gave an undertaking to the court that they would not implement a decision to reduce the care of a severely disabled elderly lady residing in Glasgow South West.

The concession made before Lord Ericht by Anna Poole Q.C., counsel for GCC was with respect to a decision to reduce the provision of 24/7 care workers for a 74 year old lady with cerebral palsy by up to three hours a day. The petitioner was represented in court by Govan Law Centre's (GLC) Mike Dailly.

The Council had decided that the provision of a care worker would be replaced with "tele-care", a remote contacting system, notwithstanding medical evidence confirmed that the petitioner's health had deteriorated and her care needs had in fact increased.  Accordingly, with the undertaken given, the petition was dismissed with no expenses.  It is important to note that any challenge to the provision of social care will turn on the individual facts and circumstances of each case.

From 1st April 2017 the "Social Work Complaints Review Committee", established under section 5B of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, has been abolished.  This system still applies for pre-1 April 2017 complaints on a transitional basis.  More details of the new regime is available here: http://www.valuingcomplaints.org.uk/handling-complaints/complaints-procedures/social-work

Under the new system the first stage is to lodge a complaint to the local authority. They may simply decide the complaint on the papers, or agree to an investigation and then issue a decision.  If a service user remains dissatisfied they can complain to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO). The SPSO can now also consider complaints on professional judgments made by social workers.

This is a complex area of law, and if you live in the Southside or North East of Glasgow you can contact GLC for help, advice and representation where appropriate. Contact us on 0141 440 2503. Alternatively, if a case is within Scotland  and it raises an issue of wider strategic public interest and importance, we may be able to assist - please contact pilu@ govanlc.com
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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

govanlawcentre.org - our new website goes live

Govan Law Centre (GLC) has launched a new website which you can find at govanlawcentre.org

Our aim is to set out detailed information on the work that we do at the law centre - our various projects that serve Scotland and beyond, our campaigns, policy and law reform work, and public interest strategic litigation and test case work. As well as showcasing particular initiatives that may be of wider interest to the public and/or advisors.

This blog will continue meantime, but if you want to find out what we are all about please bookmark and visit govanlawcentre.org We will be updating the new site, and adding greater functionality to it, as well as utilising video and audio where appropriate.
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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

GLC Principal Solicitor interview in The Herald, 17 May 2017

Below is an extract of an interview with our Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly, with The Herald's personal finance editor and business correspondent, Margaret Taylor, published on the 17 May 2017. A link to the full article is reproduced below.
IT IS somewhat fitting that the converted cells of Govan’s old Orkney Street Police Station are now home to Govan Law Centre, given that the man who runs it - principal solicitor Mike Dailly - takes no prisoners when it comes to fighting for justice.  When you consider the type of work he and his colleagues do - defending mortgage repossessions, fighting eviction cases, advising on money matters and welfare rights - you can understand why. With little or no voice of their own, Mr Dailly’s clients depend on him to fight their corner for them. “Our work is about enforcing people’s rights and enabling them to access those rights and access justice,” Mr Dailly said.(read the article on The Herald's online site here).

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Thursday, 11 May 2017

Govan Law Centre to launch Glasgow Asylum Seekers Project

Dee Flanigan, Glasgow Asylum
Seekers Project solicitor
Govan Law Centre (GLC) is delighted to announce that with the support of The AB Charitable Trust we are now in a position to launch a Glasgow Asylum Seekers Project with a particular focus on housing, health and the living conditions of asylum seekers and their families and children in Glasgow.

There are approximately 10,000 refugee and asylum seekers in Glasgow. Asylum seekers have no right to work, cannot access the benefit system and rely on public services. Failed asylum seekers are exploited and are often living in very poor conditions. Many are destitute. 
 
Research by both the Glasgow Caledonian University and Scottish Refugee Council show 96% of refugees experience homelessness at some point after receiving their status. Many slip through the net and spend time ‘sofa-surfing’ and rough sleeping. The research also showed that half are unhappy with their living conditions. Lack of basic knowledge of services, rights and opportunities means clients do not know what to do to improve their situation.

GLC's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly said: "We are convinced there is much unmet legal need amongst asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow. We will use the law to inform, enforce rights and opportunities, and ensure full access to public services to improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in Glasgow".  

GLC's Glasgow Asylum Seekers Project will work with a number of partner organisations, including the Asylum Seeker Housing project.  Our project will be headed up by Dee Flanigan, solicitor at Govan Law Centre. 
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Sunday, 7 May 2017

Significant increase in Govan Law Centre's casework in the last financial year

Govan Law Centre's (GLC) Annual Monitoring Report to Glasgow City Council has revealed a significant increase in legal casework, and gains secured for clients across Glasgow's South and North East communities.  The Annual Monitoring Report is a requirement of the local authority's Integrated Grant Fund. GCC funding to GLC represents almost one quarter of the law centre's income.

GLC believes not only do we provide a service four times the size of that vital investment, but much greater added value when the quality and specialist nature of legal work is considered, together with the law centre's work in the fields of social policy and best practice, law reform, public interest litigation and test case work. Key statistics and highlights from our legal work in Glasgow during 2016/17 include:

⧫  A 20% increase in "type 3" cases (cases which involve sheriff court or tribunal representation) from 798 cases in the last financial year to almost 1,000 this year

⧫  1,353 new clients

⧫  Resolved or prevented homelessness for 600 clients in Glasgow, and issued 1,200 "section 11" prevention of homelessness contacts

⧫  Improved living conditions for 292 clients, and ensured better affordability in living costs for 138 clients

⧫  A 10% increase in the City-wide housing debt handled by GLC's solicitors and caseworkers from almost £5.5m in the last financial year to almost £6 million pounds this year

⧫  Secured direct financial gains for clients in the sum of £412,747

⧫  GLC gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Economy Committee and helped persuade the Scottish Government to withdraw the draft Bankruptcy Fees (Scotland) Order 2017, which would have seen some fees against homeowners increase by almost 200%.

⧫  In addition to working with the Scottish Bar in cases, we also provided an in-house Solicitor Advocate service for clients undertaking urgent petitions for judicial reviews in the Court of Session against HMRC, the Scottish Government and local authorities, together with actions for suspension and interdict. We also undertook in-house appeals to the Inner House of the Court of Session in relation to issues concerning fair rents, and housing grants.

⧫  We established a pilot Women's Rights legal service in partnership with Tea in the Pot

⧫  We established and funded a Scottish Personal Insolvency Law Unit

⧫  We launched a City-wide dedicated Private Rented Tenants' Project for Glasgow with almost half a million pounds in funding from the Big Lottery Fund's Investing in Communities Programme



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Friday, 21 April 2017

Govan Law Centre and Mike Dailly provide financial support to Govan's Tea in the Pot

Mike Dailly, Anne Keegan, Tommy McMahon,
Chris Stephens MP, Lorna Walker, and Alistair Sharp.
An essential local service for women and children in Glasgow was faced with possible closure in July this year when their funding for rent, heating and lights was due to run out.

The service - Tea in the Pot - now has more time to identify long term funding thanks to donations today of £3,000 from Glasgow's Govan Law Centre (GLC), and a personal donation of £1,000 from GLC's Principal Solicitor, Mike Dailly. 

Tea in the Pot is a Drop-in & Support Service for women, and is run by women, for women. The service provides a safe relaxing atmosphere where women can meet up with old friends and make new friends.

Tea in the Pot supports women to become actively engaged in their community; enables women to identify and value their skills, experiences and talents - and to feel empowered and confident to share these with others.  It helps those coping with difficulties, under stress, or with health issues, or simply women who feel isolated with no one to talk to.

Since 21 November last year, Govan Law Centre's senior solicitor Lorna Walker has been providing a free drop-in legal surgery at Tea in the Pot on a Monday morning from 10:30am till approx. Women have been able to speak to a female solicitor in confidence, on issues affecting them, including Welfare Rights, Housing, Insolvency Issues, Community Care, Personal Injury, Criminal Injuries, Employment Law. 

GLC aims to work with Tea in the Pot, to develop our partnership services, and help secure long term funding for their essential services in the local community.
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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

GLC response to Trump International's statement on the judgment in Beyts v. TIGCS Ltd

TIGCS statement in quotes "We are satisfied that justice has prevailed. The disingenuous claim by Rohan Beyts was a perversion of the truth and nothing more than a poor attempt at self-publicity in an effort to garner support for her anti-Trump, anti-business propaganda. It's a disgrace that valuable time and money has been wasted defending a genuine north east business and its honest, hard-working personnel from this nonsense".

GLC comment: The defender lost on ALL of the facts in this case. Sheriff Corke found that the criminal charge against Rohan Beyts was frivolous. He ruled that she was entitled to hold her environmentalist and political views and opposition to the defender's golf course at Menie. There was no finding by the court of "self publicity" and in fact, the Sheriff held Ms Beyts was a credible and reliable witness. 

"Rohan Beyts is a shameless activist with a history of antagonistic behaviour. She came onto our property with a hostile opponent of the project looking for trouble. We are a fully operational golf and leisure resort, with public restrooms. Had her intentions been honourable she would have used the facilities available to her". 

GLC comment: There was no finding in court of a history of antagonistic behaviour by Ms Beyts. There was no finding of hostile behaviour by Ms Beyts. Trump International has previously claimed Ms Beyts was very close to their clubhouse when she urinated. This was found to be untrue. She was in the Dunes near the beach in marram grass. She acted responsibly in terms of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Their employee admitted in his evidence that he often sees golfers relieving themselves on the course. 

"She is insincere about her motives for being on our land and needs to take accountability for her actions. Members of our green-keeping staff were flabbergasted at what they witnessed and reported the incident to the police. It should have come as no surprise to her that she was charged for publicly urinating on golf course land".

GLC comment: The court found that Ms Beyts was on the Trump International course exercising her public right of access in terms of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. Sheriff Corke held that Trump International should never have photographed our client urinating. The court said 'I have to emphasise that officious bystanders taking pictures of females urinating in the countryside put themselves at very real risk of prosecution whether for a public order offence or voyeurism'. Sheriff Corke considered the criminal charge against Ms Beyts as 'frivolous'. 

Mike Dailly Solicitor Advocate said: "Trump International Golf Links Scotland would do well to now stop undertaking surveillance of walkers exercising their legal right to roam across their land. Taking footage or photographs of walkers urinating responsibly in accordance with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code may well be a criminal offence according to today's court ruling, and could potentially result in Trump International being subject to further litigation for breach of the Data Protection Act principles. Today's case was lost on a technical point in relation to the Act but no doubt future litigants would learn from this case".

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Govan Law Centre's evidence to the Economy Committee on the draft Bankruptcy Fees (Scotland) Order 2017

Mike Dailly, David Menzies (ICAS), Alan McIntosh
On Tuesday 21 March 2017, representatives of Govan Law Centre gave evidence to the Scottish parliament's Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee on the draft Bankruptcy Fees (Scotland) Order 2017, along with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland.

We were all in agreement that the proposed regulations were ill-advised, unfair and should be rejected pending a full review of how the Accountant in Bankruptcy is funded, and operates, particularly in relation to duplicate or unnecessary roles, and conflicts of interest.

You can watch a video of the Committee hearing here (which also includes evidence from the AiB, and the Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills). It is understood the Committee has deferred consideration of the draft Order until next week.
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Friday, 17 February 2017

Govan Law Centre's new 'Financial Health Reports' for tenants

The Private Rented Tenants Team at Govan Law Centre, is now offering its clients Financial Health Reports. 

The Team was set up in September 2016 and provides a comprehensive, unique and dedicated service to Tenants of Private landlords in Glasgow.  Along with providing vulnerable tenants with their statutory rights and tackling unmet needs the project has a focus on Financial Inclusion and Financial Capability. 

We have developed the Financial Health Report (click here for an example) as a way to identify and tackle the complex mix of factors that affect tenancy sustainment and create barriers to financial stability. 
The reports will provide tenants with:
·         a breakdown of their income by source and an analysis of their expenditure;
·         an insight into their household fuel use and an indication of whether they are suffering fuel poverty;
·         an analysis of their debts and monthly debt payments as a percentage of their net monthly income;
The reports will provide our clients with an insight into their own financial circumstances, with recommendations on how they can maximise their finances and minimise their expenditure.  It will enable clients to target those areas of expenditures that can produce real savings for them and recommend financial targets they should aim for to create more financially healthier lifestyles.    Key to the success of our work with vulnerable tenants is to provide a holistic model of support which provides easy to understand, practicable and realistic solutions.
Our Financial Health reports analysis helps us to understand the types of issues that private rented sector tenants are struggling with and discover trends, such a higher vulnerability to fuel poverty.   Already, our findings show there are a higher number of our clients who are suffering from fuel poverty.   This means that they are paying more than 10% of their disposable income on their household fuel.   The factors influencing this are usually low income, increased fuel costs, poor insulation, the home not fully wind/watertight and low energy efficiency.   

The Private Rented Tenants Team are offering these new personalised Financial Health Reports to all our clients.    It provides an immediate response to problems private renters experience with managing their finances, and in doing this work we aim to help our clients with; reducing rent arrears, prevent homelessness, improve living conditions, maximise income and achieve financial stability.  

The Team also provides advice to private sector tenants on all other housing related issues, such as rent arrears, dampness, court action, overcrowding, disrepair, benefit entitlements,  appeals and sanctions.
Govan Law Centre’s assertive outreach model helps us engage and connect with private tenants at our city-wide outreach hub’s.    A list of the times and place where advice can be obtained from us, is available here along with the details of how to get an appointment for our specialist advice.

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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Manifesto for Scottish Local Government

Govan Law Centre (GLC) believes in the following inalienable human rights for Scots and asks that Scottish MSPs and MPs endorse and implement these human rights in Scotland

No one in Scotland will sleep rough.  Local councils must be given the resources and power to ensure that no human being has to ever sleep on our streets.

No one in Scotland will go hungry.  We must empower and resource local government so that no child or adult in Scotland ever suffers from hunger and malnutrition.

Every child in Scotland will have the best education that life offers.  Local councils must be resourced to make this happen. The Scottish Government should enforce and ensure good outcomes for young Scots.

Vulnerable Scots have access to justice. Women fleeing domestic violence shouldn’t become homeless, nor should private rented sector tenants be unlawfully evicted. Councils should be resourced and mandated to protect vulnerable Scots.

 Disabled Scots should not be charged for being disabled. We need to end council fee charging for social care and pay our carers.  

The Scottish Government should lobby to devolve employment law so we can protect workers rights in Scotland. The enforcement of employee rights should be devolved to councils. 

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