Thursday 22 November 2012 by Catherine Baksi
Alternative business structures with national spread such as the Co-operative Legal Services will end the problem of 'advice deserts', a senior member of the Legal Services Commission has suggested.
Ruth Wayte, the LSC's director of legal and service development, said she was 'particularly excited by the Co-op's client focus'.
Speaking in a panel discussion at the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates conference last weekend, Wayte said that the Co-op's legal arm had tendered for 'many' contracts in recent bid rounds with the LSC. Contracting with companies such as the Co-op, she added, will mean 'advice deserts will cease to be a problem'.
The Co-op, which was one of the first organisations to become an ABS, launched its family law service last month.
A spokesman for the Co-op declined to reveal which contracts the service had tendered for, saying only: 'We have applied to the LSC for several contracts in the recent tender round'.
The LSC denied treating the Co-op differently to any other bidder. A spokesman said: 'The LSC operates open and transparent tender processes and all organisations are governed by the tender rules. The same criteria are applied equally to all organisations tendering for a legal aid contract, with no exceptions.'
LSC tenders for contracts for general face-to-face contracts, including for the provision of family, housing and debt advice, closed last month.