Other factors also affect the higher costs. Some years ago much of the approval of legal aid applications and of the bills was handled on a voluntary basis by local committees of lawyers, working as unpaid volunteers. They had local knowledge of who was competent, who was overbilling and who was efficient. Instead we now have a large bureaucracy of paid employees. They seem to be adequately competent, but not unreasonably want to be paid. Offices have to rented and a central office is required. It would be valuable to compare the old system in terms of costs. It is too late to return to this. I believe that lawyers have been discouraged from much pro bono work such as this, at least for lack of thanks and recognition.
What is the answer?
Encourage more appropriate charges instead of over prosecution-always a problem. Then, if the appropriate charges are laid, encourage more guilty pleas by use of greater allowances for preparation for sentencing, more use of restorative justice and more resources for expert reports such as drug and alcohol abuse, psychologists, and better probation reports.
For civil legal aid, roll out the mediation model which is to be introduced for family law, and use legal aid to fund mediation in more civil cases.
The rest? Just accept that where the rule of law applies some people will need adequate lawyers but cannot pay for them The cost of large numbers of unrepresented parties will be far greater than the costs of legal aid.