The CBA Ballot and the CLAAB – the problem with the ambiguities and comparisons

In light of ongoing discussions regarding the CBA Ballot, Tony Williams sets out his views regarding the proposed Criminal Legal Aid Advisory Board (CLAAB) and the apparent ambiguities about its Terms of Reference (‘TOR’).

Upon reading the proposed TOR for the CLAAB, not only do they omit direct references to pay, fees or remuneration, but such references were expressly excluded by the MOJ. Some have suggested that this is not unusual and that we should compare these with the TOR for other pay review bodies. I have spent this morning doing just that.


Below are extracts from the TOR for the Police Remuneration Review Body. “Remuneration” is in the name. It refers expressly to pay, allowances, and even pensions as within their remit:

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Below is an extract from the government’s website for the National Crime Agency Remuneration Review Body. Again, remuneration is in the name and you will see the direct reference to pay and allowances of NCA officers.

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Below is an extract from the government’s website regarding the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration. Again, you will see remuneration in the name and direct reference to “pay” of NHS doctors and dentists.

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Below is an extract from the TOR for the NHS Pay Review Body. This time “pay review” is in the name and “remuneration of all staff” appears in the wording.

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The reality of the proposal to the Criminal Bar

By contrast, see below two extracts from the proposed TOR for the CLAAB, distributed via the CBA. This board’s purpose will be to advise on the “operation and structure” of “fee schemes”. Not the level of those fees – the operation of the fee schemes. This is important.

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In the below extract, there is one reference to the fee “rate”, in relation to the hourly rate fee.

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That cannot be read in a vacuum and the “purpose” of the CLAAB above must be remembered. At best this is ambiguous and is rather strangely “tucked away” in the detail – at worst it only provides a remit to reshuffle the hourly rates within the existing schemes.

We then come to the extract below, from the CBA’s “Q&A” document. This clears up any remaining ambiguity. The MOJ have expressly confirmed that language such as “pay, fees or remuneration” should not be used and again want to focus on the “operation of the  criminal legal aid schemes”. 

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Overall, it appears CLAAB in the above form would be able to advise about the structure of various fee schemes and how money within the scheme is shuffled around, without advising on the level of those fees in terms of real pay. Unlike the other bodies we have looked at.

It is accepted that the Criminal Bar is somewhat different to many other professional bodies as we are all independent and self-employed, but the creation of an effective remuneration body is one of the things that led to our collective decision to take action. It should be clear in its terms.

I appreciate and wholeheartedly agree with the need to ensure that whatever decision people make as to how to cast their vote, it is based on accurate information. That is why I think it is important to focus on whether any comparisons being drawn with other “pay review” bodies are fair and accurate ones.

This decision as to how to vote is not an easy one and there are is number of important, competing issues that need to be considered by each barrister casting their vote. I hope that the information here helps clarify at least some doubt on this particular issue.

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