I hope all readers have had a very enjoyable Christmas, and Busbys Solicitors and I wish everyone a peaceful and pleasant 2017.
With every passing year, the pace of change quickens dramatically. The age of the internet has seen huge changes in consumer behaviour. It is amazing just what is now available from one’s home with a few clicks of the finger. Constant change also leads to a sense of impatience if we do not witness immediate change in front of our eyes.
The legal profession is now very much at the forefront of change. Each year sees increasingly unpredictable turns of events. Nothing is now static. Those who stand still are in danger of being swept aside. I am sure that most professions and service providers feel the need to respond to the ever quickening pace of business and the need for immediate results.
2016 saw a truly seismic shift in politics in England and in the USA. Who could foresee that Brexit would prevail in the referendum? Even Nigel Farage, the biggest chest beater for the “Out” campaigners, was ready to concede defeat at the end of the vote and before the results came in. We now await the outcome of the Supreme Court challenge as to whether the Government or Parliament has the final say. Other challenges to the vote are also in the pipeline. 2017 should prove to be a very memorable year for our position in Europe and indeed in the world.
The budget cuts announced in the last couple of years have had an enormous effect on local authorities. No longer is it possible to expect them to pick up the tab for local services. The depleting of services we took completely for granted is now commonplace. It is sad, for example, to see toilets at our seaside resorts now put under threat of closure. If town and parish councils are loath to step in and keep them open, it looks likely that they will continue to close. Care for the elderly has never been more disjointed and stripped back. Unless domestic rates bills are allowed to exceed the cap imposed by central Government, local services for the elderly and disabled will steadily disappear.
I have been involved in disability rights and disability payments for decades. Over that time I have helped many hundreds of people seeking to claim disability benefits or to keep those already hard-won in the past. I still feel boundless sympathy for disabled clients, many of them elderly, faced with completing a 40 page application form for Personal Independence Payment. It is incredibly difficult and often impossible for the disabled victim or their carer (usually husband or wife) to stand back and complete these incredibly intrusive and over-difficult forms. Imagine the shock and trauma faced by someone in their late 60s in receipt of Disability Living Allowance indefinitely suddenly faced with the task of completing a new 40 page form which may or may not determine whether this benefit is removed altogether. It is still sadly the case that success in getting these disability benefits will usually hang on the ability to get these forms completed in a convincing and professional way.
It is every government’s job to balance the books. It is always dispiriting to see time and again that many of the most disadvantaged people in society feel the burden the hardest. This has also been apparent in family law since the removal of legal aid for those needing help with divorce, with money and property issues arising on divorce, and especially with issues involving the children of broken relationships. The Courts are now at breaking point dealing with litigants in person who have little or no knowledge of the Court system and even less expertise as advocates in their own cause. Long and vociferous have been complaints of Judges having to sort out a system that frequently descends into near chaos – but there has been no indication of any money being made available to help. Indeed there is yet greater pressure to reduce costs even further. We now face the prospect of yet more Courts up and down the land being closed in 2017.
2015 saw the introduction of the Consumer Rights Act, which has now firmly bedded in. Most consumers have seen that as a welcome addition, as it beefs up their legal rights. So what can you expect if you have bought goods in a shop? Well, the Act says goods must be as they are described, they must be fit for purpose, and they must be of satisfactory quality. During the expected lifespan of the product you have bought, you are entitled to an immediate refund for up to 30 days if a product is faulty. If the product cannot be repaired or replaced for a period of up to six months, then in most cases you are entitled to a full refund. If the product does not last for a reasonable length of time, then for a period of up to six years you may be entitled to some money back.
For purchases made from home, and that usually means online, you have the same rights to purchases made in a shop. In addition, however, the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 give you the ability after receiving your goods of getting a full refund in most cases if you simply change your mind. You have up to 14 days to return the goods and get your refund back. The hope is that in all these cases there will be less quibbling by manufacturers and suppliers and less opportunity for them to wriggle out of their legal obligations.
Finally, at the start of each New Year, we advise readers and clients to take stock of their lives. If, for example, you have put off making your Will or updating it yet again, make an immediate resolution to do so. A Will is one of the most important documents you will ever sign, but is one which so many ignore. Consider whether you owe it to your nearest and dearest to ensure that your affairs are in order. Consider whether you want your hard-earned wealth to go to those whom you want to benefit, rather than those whom the State will determine will get your wealth if you die having made no Will. Consider also the great benefits of getting Lasting Powers of Attorney sorted out to ensure that if for any reason you are unable to deal with your own affairs then they can be managed by someone in whom you can place complete trust.
Here at Busbys we have a hugely experienced team of professionals ready and able to help you with all your legal needs. We hold the coveted Lexcel qualification, a kitemark awarded by the Law Society. Lexcel stands for “Legal Excellence” and is independently assessed confirmation of excellent client care. We look forward to being of help and assistance in 2017 to our local community, and we look forward to hearing from you. Contact us on 01288 35 9000.
Bude & Holsworthy