Chancery Lane has attacked plans for price-competitive tendering for housing possession court duty schemes as ‘a race to the bottom’ whilst welcoming clarity for the tender for 2018 civil legal aid contracts.
Duty scheme contracts will be allocated on the basis of one per court but, for the first time, this will be done on the basis of price competition.
According to the Legal Aid Agency: ‘Ministers are currently considering plans to revise the approach for the delivery of housing possession court duty schemes (HPCDS) contracts. It is proposed that contracts would be procured via a competition which includes an element of both price and quality and providers would be required to deliver services across all courts in larger scheme areas, thus increasing the size of most contracts. The approach will be informed by the policy consultation. We additionally propose to amend the rules for claiming for HPCDS work so that organisations can claim an HPCDS fee even where the case progresses to a full legal help matter.’
‘We see considerable problems in price-competitive tendering – the cheapest offering will not necessarily be the best. This could result in a race to the bottom which may impact on professional standards,’ commented Law Society president Robert Bourns. ‘A price war will not improve services and could negatively impact on clients.’
‘The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) needs to set out what steps it will take to mitigate this risk,’ Bourns said. ‘It should also keep in mind that cuts in payment only compound years of cuts for the solicitors that look after the interests of our most vulnerable citizens. It may mean that contracts which are already at best only marginally economically viable for firms become unsustainable.’
Chancery Lane noted that ‘in the bulk of cases’ contracts would be awarded to those firms that match the LAA’s stipulated standards ‘and this is something we can welcome as it helps underpin quality’.
You can read more about the LAA’s plans here.
- JusticeWatch: Another LASPO U-turn - 13th July 2018
- ‘Never truly free’: Red Cross calls for 28 day limit for immigration detention - 11th July 2018
- JusticeWatch: The roadblock to recovery - 6th July 2018
- MoJ scraps housing court duty scheme tender - 5th July 2018
- JusticeWatch: The Home Office, immigration control and a ‘culture of impunity’ - 29th June 2018
- The number of legal aid firms and NfPs down by a third since LASPO - 29th June 2018
- LAA processing 97% of civil legal aid applications within 15 days - 28th June 2018
- JusticeWatch: The LAA’s facile assumptions - 22nd June 2018
- Half of immigration detainees denied legal representation - 22nd June 2018
- LAA to reopen the civil tender for face-to-face work - 21st June 2018