The Financial Inclusion Fund’s (FIF) free national debt advice service is set to close after the government axed its £25m-a-year funding. Last month, the financial secretary to the Treasury, Mark Hoban, confirmed that funding for the free face-to-face advice service, which has operated since 2005, will end in March. The project helps around 100,000 people every year to manage their debts. Its closure will mean the redundancy of 500 debt advisers, at a time when the demand for debt advice is predicted to soar. Tobias Stapf, FIF project manager in London, said: ‘Last year the FIF debt advice service was found by the National Audit Office to provide “value for money” because it is saving significant amounts for the government, the courts [and other bodies]. ‘Time and time again it has been shown that timely and expert intervention in debt problems can prevent debts spiralling out of control and help people get their lives back on track.’ A Treasury spokeswoman said government had already announced a free and impartial national financial advice service.
Deep divisions surfaced in the personal injury claimant lobby this week after the proposal of a compromise deal on the Jackson reforms. Leaders of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers said they are now prepared to drop blanket opposition to Jackson’s plans to switch the burden of costs on to claimants. The association’s executive committee wrote to all 5,000 members on Monday with a list of concessions designed to bring about a change in government policy. Under a ‘Plan B’ for civil litigation legislation, the group is prepared to abandon qualified one-way costs shifting and concedes that claimants will have to fund after-the-event insurance, in return for fixed recoverable success fees. APIL says the compromise deal is necessary in the face of continued government commitment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO). The Law Society, which has been working behind the scenes on a possible alternative plan, gave its cautious backing to APIL’s strategy. But the Consumer Justice Alliance, a claimant lobby group of charities, law firms and insurers, says the timing of the concessions, as LASPO moves into report stage in the House of Lords, is ‘little short of catastrophic’ and will harm the interests of injured victims. Deborah Evans, chief executive of APIL, told the Gazette that pragmatism was essential if the government is to be persuaded to modify the bill. ‘The government’s approach on other bills is to let the Lords have their debate but make sure it goes back to the original objectives,’ she said. ‘We’re trying to come out with a more workable view. At the moment injured people stand to lose such a lot and with our proposals they lose a lot less. ‘It’s important to see it as a step up from [the current bill] which could quite easily go ahead unamended without a good alternative.’ CJA chairman Nigel Muers-Raby has written to Evans expressing ‘surprise and concern’ that the APIL executive committee sought a compromise deal without consulting members. He said: ‘The proposal as it stands leaves the injured victim in a worse position than do the Jackson proposals.’ Evans accepted there will be differing views within her group but said the settlement ensured fairness, with success fees proportionate to the level of risk and 50% recoverable if the case goes to trial. The alternative proposals will be presented to Ministry of Justice officials later this month and APIL is also prepared to meet insurance representatives to thrash out a possible joint position. Desmond Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society said: ‘We’ve welcomed the “pause” in implementation of the bill’s Jackson reforms and we urge the government to use this delay to properly engage with claimant groups, charities, distinguished academics and victim representatives who have well-informed reservations about the proposals. ‘The government appears determined to force through changes. Blunt opposition seems unlikely to halt the reforms so the Law Society has been considering pragmatic alternatives. For several months the Society has been working behind the scenes with other stakeholders to discuss possible ways forward. ‘We remain opposed in principle to the government’s changes but alternative proposals from APIL deserve serious consideration. We look forward to serious discussions with government and the insurance industry.’
ALE will combine two AL.SK cranes into one heavy lifting system that is able to lift loads weighing up to 8,000 tonnes with a load moment of 708,000 tonne-metres. The system will operate with two 4,000-tonne capacity winch systems and two hook blocks.The double boom system will be operated from one control room by a single operator, and it will be possible to containerise the crane for shipment to various locations across different market sectors.According to ALE, the AL.SK700 will be ideally suited for lifting super-heavy modules found in the offshore and shipbuilding industry.”At present, our AL.SK350 has the lifting capacity of 5,000 tonnes and a load moment of 354,000 tonne-metres,” explained Giovanni Alders, sales manager for ALE’s global projects division.”We are receiving requests to lift up to 7,000 tonnes, particularly in the shipbuilding and offshore sector with the integration of heavier FPSOs and LNG modules onto newbuild hulls.” www.ale-heavylift.com