Solicitors invited to shape alternatives to price competition for legal aid

09 Apr, 2013

The Law Society has today called on its members to respond to a major consultation paper on alternatives to price competitive tendering (PCT) for criminal legal aid work.


The Society has described the prospect of price competition for criminal work as potentially catastrophic and will recommend reforms to make the criminal legal aid process more cost-efficient in ways that present less risk to the system.


The Law Society consultation has been expedited following the Lord Chancellor’s announcement that Government will issue a consultation paper in April and hold the tender round in the Autumn, with a view to the new contracts starting in autumn 2014.


Commenting on the hugely disruptive impact that the competitive tendering scheme could bring, Law Society President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff (pictured) said:


“We have repeatedly voiced our opposition to tendering for criminal legal services on price. The level of uncertainty over work volumes (of lower crime cases), possible systemic changes and required investment to meet Government IT requirements are critical issues for firms. The shortened timetable for consultation and implementation may require substantial restructuring of the market before the autumn, which is not plausible.


“In several previous attempts, the Government has been unable to come up with a workable model for price tendering, and we do not see how they will be able to address the fundamental difficulties this time round. We also think it is implausible that tendering will save the sort of sums of money the Treasury is looking for, and there is some doubt whether it will save anything at all. There is a better alternative that will avoid doing so much damage to the criminal justice system, while still delivering worthwhile savings to contribute to the government’s deficit reduction target.”


The Law Society consultation is an opportunity for the solicitors profession to influence the debate as to how criminal legal aid is procured in future. The results of the consultation will inform the Society’s response to the Government consultation, and subsequent discussions with the Government on procurement of criminal legal aid.


Lucy Scott-Moncrieff added:


“We are ready to work with the ministry to propose a set of sensible reforms which will make the procurement process workable and result in a more cost effective, yet reliable system.”


The Law Society consultation is open until May 10th.

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