Wednesday 30 September 2009

GLC gets Scribd

GLC has published a selection of our past social policy and law reform reports and documents on Scribd. Scribd is a nifty free website which allows you to view any shape or form of document without Adobe or a word processor - so you can access GLC documents via any internet connection or your mobile phone. GLC will use Scribd to publish documents which we think might be of interest to social welfare law practitioners or the public generally. You can find our Scribd page here.

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Rent Deposit Scheme for Scotland

Scotland's Housing Minister, Alex Neil MSP, has confirmed that the Scottish Government will introduce a new Rent Deposit Scheme for Scotland.

In an answer to a Parliamentary Question asked by Claire Baker MSP, Mr Neil said: "At the last tenancy deposit working group on 1 September the stakeholder members, representing the full range of interests, agreed that a single, national mandatory scheme for safeguarding tenancy deposits was the best way forward. Earlier in the summer the group had defined the criteria for any solution to the issue of unfairly withheld deposits".

"The group will meet again in the next couple of months to consider the details of the scheme, the lessons to learn from schemes running in England and Wales and how best to provide for adjudicating disputes. This will allow the scheme to be defined so that the enabling secondary legislation can be prepared and come to Parliament in the Spring".

The power to introduce a Rent Deposit Scheme is already contained within the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006.

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Monday 28 September 2009

SYLA debate on trainee solicitors

The Scottish Young Lawyers Association have organised a guest speakers debate, with the support of The Scotsman, on Thursday 29 October 2009 at 7.30pm in Edinburgh. Further details from the SYLA.

The motion to be debated is 'This House believes that trainees are there to be exploited'.

The SYLA are keen to highlight the difficulties facing young lawyers and trainee solicitors in Scotland. Many trainees have had their traineeships cancelled or been made redundant - a grim prospect after five years of university study with associated debt.

GLC's Principal Solicitor will open the debate for the opposition.

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Friday 25 September 2009

Failure to support free parking bill will fetter access to NHS in Scotland

Govan Law Centre (GLC) is deeply concerned at the lack of cross-party support for the principle of unfettered, free, public access to NHS services in Scotland.

GLC agreed to draft Paul Martin MSP's proposed NHS Parking (Scotland) Bill on behalf of UNISON Scotland because we believe in the principle of universal free health care in Scotland.

GLC's Mike Dailly said: "Patients, visitors and health workers currently cannot access three of Scotland's major hospitals unless they have the money to pay for hospital parking charges. Elsewhere in Scotland there are various forms of 'semi-free' access to hospitals, which are often rendered meaningless in practice as there are inadequate parking spaces".

"If you can't park near a hospital you can't access health care services or support a loved one. It's that simple. Universal free health care has to include universal free access to all NHS services in Scotland. At the very least the principle of unfettered public access to Scottish hospitals deserves to be discussed by the Scottish Parliament. Sadly that won't happen unless there is cross-party support on this important law reform proposal".

Link to UNISON Scotland's Bill campaign page.

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Thursday 24 September 2009

Prime Minister intervenes in bank charges dispute

Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday called on the UK's banks to resolve the unfair bank charges dispute and negotiate a solution "without further delay". Further details of this story are available in The Guardian.

The decision of the Supreme Court (formerly the House of Lords)on whether the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations can apply to overdraft fees is expected within weeks. If the banks were to lose this case (and they have already lost on this preliminary issue before the High Court and the Court of Appeal) there would still need to be a lengthy evidential hearing on the merits of the case i.e. whether the charges were indeed fair or unfair.

Accordingly, GLC believes it is likely that if the banks were to lose before the Supreme Court they may prefer to negotiate a settlement with the OFT - as happened with credit card default charges back in 2006. There have been previous reports that the OFT would be prepared to consider a negotiated settlement. In 2006, the OFT set an intervention figure of over £12, and most credit card companies reduced their default charges to £12.

Could that happen with bank charges? We think so. The fact that RBS/Natwest and HBOS are already reducing their fees is a strong indication that a solution to unfair bank charges may soon be within sight. And if that happens the freeze on seeking a refund will be lifted and millions of citizens will be able to pursue a backdated claim.

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Friday 18 September 2009

Law Awards win for Govan

Govan Law Centre picked up the Chairman's Award for its unique outstanding public service at last night's 2009 Law Awards of Scotland.

The 'Oscars' for Scotland's legal profession took place before a packed audience of lawyers and guests in Glasgow's Hilton hotel.

GLC's Principal Solicitor Mike Dailly said:

"We are very proud that this kind honour was bestowed upon us by the Rt Hon Lord MacLean as Chairman of the judging panel".

"Govan Law Centre is the only firm in Scotland to have won the Chairman's Award twice, and this is a generous acknowledgement to all of our brilliant staff and trustees".

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Thursday 17 September 2009

Breaking news: Bank of Scotland & Halifax to cut bank charges

Bank of Scotland and Halifx(HBOS) are to cut overdraft penalty charges on their current accounts by the end of 2009.

HBOS, both part of the Government-owned Lloyds Banking Group, have confirmed they will axe the current charges structure where you are hit with fees of up to £35 per transaction if you exceed your limit, which could add up to £133 a day.

HBOS customers will instead pay £5 a day for every day they are in an unauthorised overdraft no matter how many transactions are attempted or how deep into an unauthorised overdraft they go.

Further details are available on Martin Lewis's Money Saving Expert site.

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Thursday 10 September 2009

Morning Extra on BBC Radio Scotland

Listen to the programme again on the BBC iPlayer; Watch the BBC's video on this topic again.

Property factors and the practices of Glasgow-based Walker Sandford Property Management Ltd - which were exposed on tonight's BBC Reporting Scotland - will be the subject of discussion on BBC Radio Scotland's Morning Extra tomorrow morning, Friday 11 September 2009 from 9am. If you've had a bad experience with Walker Sandford Property Management Ltd or any other property factor you can call the show live tomorrow morning. Mike Dailly, GLC's Principal Solicitor, will be there to explain what homeowners can do to protect their legal position.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Public meeting concerning Walker Sandford Property Management Ltd

Govan Law Centre and Patricia Ferguson MSP, sponsor of the proposed Property Factors (Scotland) Bill, are hosting a major public meeting to address the concerns of customers of Walker Sandford Property Management Ltd.

We hope to have in attendance local MSPs and local elected members from all of the main political parties, representatives of relevant agencies and authorities, and representatives of other Glasgow law firms who have been involved in Walker Sandford litigation on behalf of consumers.

The public meeting will take place at 6.45pm on Monday 16 November 2009 in McLeod Hall, The Pearce Institute, 840-860 Govan Road, Glasgow, G51 3UU. McLeod Hall has capacity for 250 people, so please come along.

The aims of the meeting are:

1. To provide free consumer rights knowledge and a 'DIY-kit' on how to challenge the legality of default charges imposed as 'reminder letters' and compound monthly interest applied('charges on the charges'),empower customers to defend court actions where unfair charges have been applied, and seek repayment of unfair charges;
2. To identify cases for a test case strategy;
3. Provide a list of Glasgow law firms (including private legal firms)willing to defend cases raised by Walker Sandford, so the public has a pool of suitable solicitors where required and,
4. Ingather further evidence on the practices of Walker Sandford Property Management Ltd; and
5. Provide a campaign platform for a consensus for change.

Directions to the Public Meeting; Multimap of the Public Meeting location.


Tuesday 8 September 2009

GLC job advert: Ayrshire Homelessness and Prevention (AHAP) Service

Glasgow's Govan Law Centre (GLC) and Ayrshire's Community Housing Advocacy Project (CHAP)are launching an exciting new project funded by the Scottish Legal Aid Board to prevent mortgage repossession across North, South and East Ayrshire.

GLC requires an experienced solicitor with good civil court and defended mortgage repossession experience; and a part-time legal clerical officer with relevant experience.

Both posts will be based in Glasgow, however the project solicitor will be required to travel to various locations in Ayrshire on a regular basis. All travel expenses will be reimbursed. Competitive salaries are offered for both posts.

Apply in writing with C.V. to Principal Solicitor, Govan Law Centre, 47 Burleigh Street, Glasgow, G51 3LB.

The closing date for posts is Friday 9th October. Both posts are funded until March 2011 by the Scottish Legal Aid Board. GLC is an Equal Opportunities employer.

Visit CHAP's website for AHAP project vacancies for a Money Advisor and Administrative Assistant, based locally.

GLC on Radio Ramadhan

GLC's Mike Dailly will discuss the work of Govanhill Law Centre, on Radio Ramadhan's As-Salamu-Alaikum Glasgow on Tuesday, 7 September 2009 from 8am. Radio Ramadhan is a not for profit radio station serving the local Muslim community in Glasgow during the Holy month of Ramadhan.

Monday 7 September 2009

Breaking news: RBS to slash bank charges

From 1 October, RBS and Natwest customers will pay £5 for a bounced cheque and £15 per item on an overdrawn account. Still too much - yes of course, given the true cost of these charges is closer to £2.50 or less. But this is big news as the current RBS charge for a bounced cheque is £38, with £30 being charge per item on an overdrawn account.

What’s going on? The UK's Supreme Court (formerly the House of Lords) will shortly issue its decision in the OFT test case on bank charges. Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal have already found that the 1999 Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations apply in principle to current account terms which impose fees and charges for going overdrawn without permission.

Many commentators expect the Supreme Court to reach the same conclusion. Even if they do the UK banks could still fight on the merits of the case: they could argue their fees are fair. That said, this is probably the weakest part of their defence, as there is considerable evidence to show that their charging structure is unfair. Charges are targeted at the least able to afford them, and are designed to make an obscene mark-up.

RBS and Natwest are making a smart move. The writing is on the wall for unfair bank charges and they are anticipating this. It’s only a matter of time.

For example, back in 2006 most UK credit card companies were charging £25 or more for failing to make a minimum payment. The OFT estimated this practice was scamming the British public in excess of £300m per annum. The OFT intervened and said any credit card charge in excess of £12 would be treated by it as unfair. What happened? Most credit card companies lowered their charges to £12.

I think RBS is protecting it’s future financial position. It has calculated that when the banks lose the OFT test case they will have to reduce their charges anyway. So better to bite the bullet now.

Of course this still leaves the thorny issue of past unfair charges – and in theory there could be backdated claims worth up to £10bn across the UK, and at the very least we are definitely talking about several billion of pounds in claims.

Effectively, RBS are trying to draw a line in the sand for future claims. Other banks would do well to follow suit. The revolution isn’t far off, and there won’t be any more taxpayer handouts!

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Friday 4 September 2009

Free dampness & disrepair surgeries for Pollokshields tenants

Govanhill Law Centre will hold its first free legal surgery for tenants in East Pollokshields whose homes suffer from dampness and serious disrepair.

The first drop-in surgery will take place on Friday 18 September 2009 at 10am to noon in the Pollokshields Community Centre, 15 Kenmure Street, Glasgow.

Scots law gives tenants the right to a warm and dry home; a home that is free from dampness & disrepair; and a home that can be heated to a reasonable temperature without spending a large amount of money on fuel bills.

Solicitors from both Govanhill Law Centre and Govan Law Centre will be on hand to provide tenants in Pollokshields with free legal advice and representation to ensure that their homes are warm, dry and comfortable.

Tenants in East Pollokshields who cannot make it along on the 18th of September, can telephone 0141 433 2665 to arrange an appointment with a solicitor for free.

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