THE doors finally opened this week on Manchester’s answer the vicious Tory cuts to legal aid.
Moss Side’s Greater Manchester Law Centre (GMLC) will offer free legal advice and representation for people denied it, especially those disproportionately hit by the cuts, including women, disabled people and black and minority ethnic communities.
Six law centres in Greater Manchester have fallen under the axe of Tory legal aid cuts, leaving 2.7 million people reliant on the remaining two.
But a year ago local lawyers and activists decided to do something about it, organising a fundraising drive to make sure Mancunians can still afford to access justice.
Their stellar efforts have secured enough cash to pay a development worker for 12 months, secure premises at 159 Princess Road, M14, and now pay a supervising solicitor for at least three years.
“We do not just want to be a law centre, but a campaign for law centres generally,” said GMLC chair John Nicholson yesterday.
“Nor do we want just to provide some service delivery, important though that is, on an occasional basis alongside foodbanks or similar.
“While we want lawyers to help us by providing pro bono advice now, this isn’t to let government or councils off the hook — we need a new generation of paid social welfare lawyers, we demand the restoration of legal aid, and we are first and foremost a campaign for access to justice for all.”
Patrons include Michael Mansfield QC, John Hendy QC, Robert Lizar, Lord Willy Bach and Bolton-born actress Maxine Peake.