Your round-up of the stories that you should discuss at interview this week:
- Housing Law
Reported by Anna Flaherty
Update: Grenfell Tragedy
In the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy, it has been found that that 312 tower blocks in the UK are also at risk, as their cladding consists of the same material as that of Grenfell Tower. Another 299 have been identified as being at risk of fire, as they are “unlikely to meet current Building Regulations.” However, little action has been taken due to disputes as to who should pay for the necessary work to be done. These disputes have generally sought to make either the leaseholders or building owners culpable. However, Dr Ed Kirton-Darling has said that, due to the state’s failure to provide satisfactory regulations in the area, it is ‘the state’s responsibility to meet all the costs of making these homes safe’.
This conveys the extent to which the government has been criticised. Academics from both Kent and Bristol University have stated that reform of housing law is required in relation to health and safety in people’s homes. These academics have created a report in an attempt to fill some of the gaps/failings in current housing law legislation; the relevant legislation includes the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the Housing Act 2004 and the Deregulation Act 2015, amongst others. The report essentially concluded that:
“[T]he law regarding the state and condition of property is in a mess. It is old and out of date; it does not provide appropriate remedies for modern concerns; its enforcement is variable; and, at least some of it is of symbolic value only.”
The report recommends, as a solution, that a new piece of legislation should be introduced which would treat occupiers of such buildings “as consumers of housing with enforceable rights to ensure minimum standards are adhered to.”
- Public Law
Reported by Dan Petch
Legal aid – who is it helping?
The recent reforms will result in the safety net being wrenched away from those it first sought to protect.
Legal aid has always been a contentious subject for Parliament, and in recent decades successive governments have cut and cut away at the legal aid system, subsequently affecting those who need it the most. This begs the question, what is the purpose of legal aid if it fails to support those who otherwise cannot access legal services?
The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) tried to stop an overhaul to the way in which advocates are paid for legal aid work, stating that a change from being paid per number of pages in a case, to the factual considerations such as complexity, length and seriousness of the case, will reduce the number of advocates willing to take on cases greatly.
This recent reform has resulted in talk with regards to direct action being taken against such reforms, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since 2015.
The Law Society has also eluded to the fact that while means test thresholds have been frozen since 2010, living costs have continued to rise so those who need to access legal aid are now unable to meet the financial contributions due to having no money to spend as rent must be paid and food must be bought.
With constant reform and cut backs to legal aid it is clear that very soon the system will no longer be able to aid those it was set up to do so in the first place.
- Employment Law
Reported by Radhika Morally
End of the year-long pay squeeze finally in sight for UK workers.
Official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown an unprecedented growth in real wages, meaning that the annual percentage change in average earnings has now overtaken the inflation rate. Wages excluding bonuses in the three months to March have risen at an annual rate of 2.9%, which is the fastest recorded in over a year. The distance between the two figures is only expected to widen as a the effect of the pound’s losses in 2016 dwindle.
This has been described as a positive change for workers. The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has said that this will enable people ‘to feel the benefit of more money in their pockets […] as we build a stronger, fairer economy.’ In any case, the return of real purchasing power is good news for consumers who have experienced a year of diminishing living standards.
However, not all have had a positive reaction to the recent figures. The general secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Frances O’Grady, has said that ‘working people are still not getting a fair deal […] average weekly pay is still worth much less than a decade ago.’ John Hawksworth, the chief economist at PwC, displays a similar attitude, stating that the significance of wages will not be ‘turned around overnight’.
Therefore, although the recent figures are most certainly a step in the right direction, the economy still has some way to go before reaching its former success levels.