LSC delays tendering over Carter timing clash

PUBLISHED January 5, 2006

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has bowed to pressure from the profession and delayed competitive tendering for criminal legal aid work in London, but leading solicitors have predicted that the plans will now be dropped for good.

The commission had originally planned to launch a bidding round in April, with contracts awarded from October 2006, but consultation highlighted concerns that such a timetable would not fit in with Lord Carter?s review of legal aid procurement. Lord Carter is expected to report at the end of this month.

?In order to ensure that London competitive tendering is taken forward in a way that is consistent with the outcome of Lord Carter?s review, the LSC has listened to concerns and altered implementation plans so that the consultation process on the final LSC proposals will not be launched until after Lord Carter has reported in early 2006,? a commission spokesman admitted.

?This means that the published timetable is not feasible. A revised timetable will be produced as part of the second consultation.?

Rodney Warren, director of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association, said he was not surprised the plans had been put on hold ? but anticipated they may be ditched altogether. ?My view is that competitive tendering on the basis of price is unlikely to feature, at least in the magistrates? courts in the short term and even in the medium term,? he said.

Richard Miller, director of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, claimed the proposed timetable had always been completely impractical. ?It was unreasonably preventing firms from undertaking any sort of business planning.?

But he added: ?[Although] we are pleased that the LSC has finally acknowledged that this timetable is unrealistic, it is deplorable that it has taken them so long to admit it. This announcement should have been made in August 2005 at the latest.?