Monday, 3 March 2008

Thumbs down for BVT plan

Criminal defence lawyers have given a resounding vote of no confidence to government plans for the proposed ‘best value tendering’ regime under which they would be expected to bid for work. An online survey of 361 legal aid lawyers found that almost two thirds (67%) of solicitors described themselves as ‘strongly against’ the proposals. The LSC is currently consulting on the BVT scheme and that consultation closed this week (March 3rd).

The survey ‘not only highlights that there is a lack of support for BVT across the profession’ but it also ‘reveals some of the fears solicitors have about the LSC's current proposals’, reckons Richard Miller, the Law Society’s legal aid manager. He goes on to say that ‘the fact that 85% said they would not bid for the contracts again when they come up for renewal if they failed first time around starkly demonstrates one of the major problems with the proposals’. ‘We have still seen no answer to the question how there can be adequate competition in any second round of bidding,’ he adds.

Chancery Lane points to ‘broader implications’ of BVT insofar as over half of the respondent firms (56%) undertake civil legal aid work and almost three-quarters (74%) of those firms reckon there would be ‘an adverse impact on their civil legal aid work if they were unsuccessful with their criminal bids’.

The Criminal Law Solicitors Association also published its response rejecting the proposed introduction of Best Value Tendering (BVT). It argues that the proposals ‘fail on every test that the LSC set themselves namely “to create a sustainable legal aid system, with quality, access and value for money at its heart”’. It says that the plan is ‘fundamentally flawed’.

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