Justifying local mileage claims to the Legal Aid Agency

Justifying local mileage claims to the Legal Aid Agency

Recently, the Legal Aid Agency has begun to enforce their rules regarding requirements for claiming ‘local travel’, and are now rejecting these mileage claims if they do not justify the need for this mode of transport over other, arguably more cost effective, modes of transport.
The criteria used by the LAA for justification of mileage can be found in section 6.8 of the Civil Finance Electronic Handbook.

However in many cases, public transport to travel to or from difficult to reach areas includes changes, lengthy walking distances and increased overall travel time. This is not practical with a large file of papers, nor is it a productive use of a fee earner’s time. Another point is that with many train, bus and tram journeys, the return tickets in most instances can be just as expensive as a car mileage claim.

An update published on the Legal Aid website on 22nd May 2014 states that they will allow appeals against the rejection of these mileage claims up until certificates issued from 1st September 2014, provided they are within the appeal time limit. The full update can be found at https://www.justice.gov.uk/legal-aid/newslatest-updates/civil-news/update-on-local-travel-claims

Prior to this update being posted, we had advised a client to pursue an appeal against a mileage reduction dating back to earlier this year. The appeal was on the basis that local mileage was claimed as public transport would have taken considerably longer and was more expensive than driving to the listed Court. The appeal was allowed earlier this month.

The question that now arises is whether this appeal was actually allowed for the reasons given, or just for the fact the LAA’s update followed days later. Upon a successful appeal, solicitors need to seek confirmation from the LAA as to whether the reasons given by fee earners will be sufficient justification for claims with certificates issued from September 2014. It is important that this is verified, otherwise solicitors will find their claims reduced down once again by the disallowed mileage once the LAA stop automatically accepting appeals. This in turn will incur further costs and time in preparing appeals which could be avoided by seeking to resolve this uncertainty now.

Our client is in the process of trying to obtain a clear explanation of exactly why their mileage appeal was allowed. If any other solicitors have been able to ascertain this please feel free to contact us. In the meantime we will of course notify you upon our receipt of clarification.