Tag Archive | "LCCSA"

Crime Contingency Contracts


Following justice secretary Michael Gove’s January decision to scrap a controversial ‘two-tier’ contracting regime, for which firms competed to secure one of 527 duty provider contracts, replacement contracts were expected to come into force later this year.

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) is now offering to extend current contingency contracts, which were due to expire on 10 January 2017, to 31 March 2017. Providers have until 30 June to accept the offer.

The LAA said: “This extension is needed so that we can:

  • allow the tender process and mobilisation period to be completed so providers can prepare for a new crime contract in 2017
  • ensure continuity of crime services from 11 January 2017 to the start date of the replacement crime contract Letters will be issued to all Crime Contingency Contract holders shortly. Providers will have until 23.59 on 30 June to accept the contract extension. “Any providers who do not accept the extension will retain a contract to the current end date of 10 January 2017.”

The LAA also announced that it had entered into a three week consultation with representative bodies on the content of the 2017 Standard Crime Contract on 8 June 2016. A spokesperson for the agency confirmed that the representative bodies are the Law Society, Bar Council, Legal Aid Practitioners Group and Advice Services Alliance.

As reported in the ‘Gazette’, a Law Society spokesperson said: “We are expecting the contract to be largely uncontroversial, mainly reflecting changes proposed in the draft 2015 contracts when the Legal Aid Agency drafted “own” and “duty” contracts for the two-tier arrangements.

“The Society has been working with the practitioner groups and the LAA to try to find a mechanism to mitigate the problem of “ghost” duty solicitors by tightening up the rules to ensure that only those currently active in criminal law can act as duty solicitors.”

Also quoted in the ‘Gazette’, Zoe Gascoyne, chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, regretted the fact that the CLSA and the LCCSA were not statutory consultees. LCCSA president Greg Foxsmith said the association has “made the case for duty solicitor slots to remain with individual solicitors, rather than firms,” adding “with over 1,000 members in London desperate to know what the provisions of the proposed new contracts [are], it is bizarre that the LCCSA is not consulted but instead the Bar Council is invited to comment.”

One may ask why this last minute rush to deal with a well flagged matter. Could it be that the all consuming hustings for the referendum has led politicians, of all colours, to take their eyes off the ball of routine government business. Be grateful that we have a diligent, highly professional civil service to see that essential business is maintained.

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Goodbye to new legal aid contracting regime


It’s a bit like the failing football manager syndrome. The chairman of the club vigorously defends the current occupant until he has a replacement lined up. Then out goes the old manager with glowing praise and thanks.

In a written ministerial statement this afternoon, justice secretary Michael Gove, having given fulsome praise to his unlamented predecessor, said he had decided ‘not to go ahead with the introduction of the dual contracting system’. He will also suspend, for a period of 12 months from 1 April, a second fee cut which was introduced in July last year.

Under the dual contracting system, two types of contract were to be awarded to criminal legal aid firms.

  • An unlimited number of contracts for ‘own client’ work based on basic financial and fitness to practise checks – in others words continued payment for representing existing and known clients.
  • And a total of 527 ‘duty’ contracts awarded by competition, giving firms the right to be on the duty legal aid rota in 85 geographical procurement areas around the country, with between 4 and 17 contracts awarded in each. In other words, these contracts would allow a limited number of firms the chance to represent new entrants to the criminal justice system.

Gove said: “The dual contracting model was a carefully designed initiative from my department that aimed to meet concerns expressed by the legal profession about price competition. But over time, opposition to this model has been articulated with increasing force and passion by both solicitors and barristers.”

He said: “These arguments weighed heavily with me, but the need to deliver reductions in expenditure rapidly, and thus force the pace of consolidation, was stronger. Since July 2015, however, two significant developments have occurred.

“Firstly, thanks to economies I have made elsewhere in my department HM Treasury have given me a settlement which allows me greater flexibility in the allocation of funds for legal aid.

“Secondly, it has become clear, following legal challenges mounted against our procurement process, that there are real problems in pressing ahead as initially proposed.

“In addition, a judicial review challenging the entire process has raised additional implementation challenges.”

The Legal Aid Agency will extend current contracts so as to ensure continuing service until replacement contracts come into force later this year and more details will follow in due course.

One reason Mr Gove has earned the respect of his political opponents is his willingness to reverse many of Grayling’s least effective decisions, such as the restriction on books for prisoners, the proposed young offenders prison, the Saudi Arabia prisons deal and abolishing the much criticised criminal courts charge.

And now the demise of this half baked dual contract fiasco. What a waste of money and what a waste of time and effort. Don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: “It is clear that a competitive approach to the provision of criminal legal aid services is not appropriate. The assurance that there will be no competitive tendering in the future gives practitioners greater certainty for the future.’

LCCSA president Greg Foxsmith said: “We sincerely hope the MoJ learn lessons from this sorry affair, and we are ready and willing to work constructively with Mr Gove to replace “two-tier justice” with sustainable legal aid provision that provides justice for all.”

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

New legal aid contracts


Criminal defence solicitors will find out this week from the Legal Aid Agency if their firms have won one of a reduced number of contracts to provide 24-hour cover at police stations or whether they are among the 500 expected to go out of business.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said applicant organisations will be notified about their tender outcomes ‘around the end of this month’. Though there is no right of appeal to a contract decision within the tender process, the Law Society has set out guidance on potential routes for challenging the LAA’s decisions. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Deadline for legal aid bid survey extended by three weeks


The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) has asked firms to confirm their willingness to withdraw their bids for the government’s new contracts to provide 24-hour cover at police stations, to commence on 11 January next year, “if sufficient bidding firms in that area indicated they would do the same.”

It has also asked for confirmation from bidders which it said “have already reached a decision to refuse their tender offer” as well as firms that have not submitted bids. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Lawyers suspend legal aid action


On Friday 21 August Bill Waddington of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) and Jon Black of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) issued a joint statement.

It stated: “For 52 days Solicitors and Barristers across the country have stood firm against the second cut. In recent weeks, the leaders of the Practitioner Groups have had the opportunity to engage with the MoJ and by so doing, have been able to provide ideas for long term savings as a direct alternative to a cut in rates. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Legal aid contract bids could be withdrawn


As the MoJ prepares to announce the outcome of its tender process for new legal aid contracts, the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) said some firms would be willing to withdraw their bids should others be willing to do the same.

In a message to members, the LCCSA committee said: “Many of us felt compelled to submit a bid for a contract but did so with little, if any, enthusiasm. In the past six weeks members have told us that, given the right circumstances they would withdraw their bids.

“We understand from informal soundings in meetings with London members that there is a belief that the great majority of solicitor firms who have submitted bids would withdraw them if they could be confident that other firms would act in a similar manner.”

The LCCSA has asked firms to confirm their willingness to withdraw their bids “if sufficient bidding firms in that area indicated they would do the same.” The practitioner group has also asked for confirmation from bidders which it said ‘have already reached a decision to refuse their tender offer’ as well as firms that have not submitted bids. The deadline for responses is 28 August.

“Subject to the degree of progress made in discussions with [the government], we may at any time contact all those indicating an intention to withdraw their bid or refuse an offer, to seek reconfirmation of their intention and to seek authority of the managing partner/director as to whether the firm consents to their name and/or their response being disclosed and to whom such information may be disclosed,” the LCCSA said.

Representatives from the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA), London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) and the Big Firms Group (BFG) met ministry officials again this week.

The CLSA and LCCSA said the groups presented four options for the ministry and Legal Aid Agency to consider ‘in terms of alternative savings’ to the second fee cut. “It is right to say that these proposals were very well received and that there was a recognition of a financial benefit long term and not just over a three-month period,” the groups said.

“The three organisations made it clear that if the lord chancellor was to suspend the cut on a long-term basis that they would continue with engagement to suggest other substantial savings not limited to the legal aid budget.”

The nationwide legal aid boycott is expected to continue and justice secretary Michael Gove is to be briefed on the four savings options next week. Though the CLSA and LCCSA’s statement suggested progress on the fee cut, the MoJ made it clear that the lord chancellor will continue to press ahead with plans to reduce the number of contracts for solicitors providing 24-hour cover at police stations from 1,600 to 527.

The CLSA and LCCSA welcomed the ministry and LAA’s suggestion that, should current talks resolve in a ‘satisfactory outcome’, the government ‘would want to continue the engagement with the associations in respect of other matters.

Photo courtsesy of Commons Wikimedia

Posted in Criminal JusticeComments (0)

Barristers join legal aid boycott


The nationwide boycott over the government’s legal aid cuts gathered momentum as criminal barristers officially joined solicitors in their protest. A ballot by the Criminal Barristers Association (CBA) saw a narrow majority of 55% in favour of the action.

The CBA met last Monday evening and reaffirmed its support for the protest. A spokesperson said: “The members of the CBA voted in July to take action against the latest cut in legal aid fees by adopting no returns and not taking instructions.” Read the full story

Posted in Legal AidComments (0)

News from the front


On the second day of nationwide protests against new contracts and fee cuts it was announced that criminal solicitors voted overwhelmingly in favour of individual direct action over the government’s legal aid cuts. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (1)

Big firms support legal aid protest action


The Big Firms Group, an alliance of over 30 large criminal legal aid firms that do around 25% of criminal legal aid work, said it would support individual direct action after a meeting held last week. Members of the Big Firms Group have sought advice from Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC on the action.

Bill Waddington, chair of the CLS, said the Big Firms Group’s decision sends out the ‘strongest signal’ that the legal profession has had enough of the government’s legal aid policy, which he said was driving legal aid firms and their staff into financial ruin. Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

Gove doesn’t care either: Next steps for the criminal legal aid market


Yesterday Shailesh Vara, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Courts and Legal Aid, presented a written statement to the House of Commons to confirm next steps for the criminal legal aid market.

He said: “There is a pressing need to ensure our criminal justice system performs more efficiently” and “there is no doubt we still have a generous system compared to other countries. The continuing need to reduce the deficit means that we must make further progress. We must secure greater efficiencies whilst maintaining a high quality service and guaranteeing that everyone accused of a crime has the same access to a legal aid lawyer as they do now.” Read the full story

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)

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