The government remains committed to introducing 2015 Own Client and Duty Provider Crime Contracts and delivering market consolidation through the dual contract model at the earliest opportunity.
Following our procurement process 519 out of 520 successful bidders have indicated their intention to accept the new duty contracts. This is very welcome and reinforces our confidence that the new model will deliver high-quality criminal legal aid services across the country.
However, a number of unsuccessful bidders have chosen to legally challenge our decisions. There are now automatic injunctions on us proceeding with the new contracts in a number of procurement areas until those legal challenges are resolved. Our first priority is to ensure criminal legal aid remains available to those who need it and we cannot risk gaps in provision due to ongoing litigation. We have therefore taken the difficult but necessary decision to delay the implementation of the new contracts.
The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) now intends that services under the new contracts will start on 1 April 2016 rather than 11 January, as previously planned. The new litigator fee scheme will be introduced at the same time as the new contracts.
LAA is writing to existing 2010 Standard Crime Contract holders today (13 November 2015) to offer them the opportunity to continue providing criminal legal aid services from 11 January 2016. The offer will be a contingency extension based on the 2010 Standard Crime Contract and the extension will last until 31 March 2016. There is a backstop date of 10 January 2017 for the contingency extension in the unlikely event that a further extension beyond 31 March is required.
This will allow existing providers to continue to deliver both own client and duty work from 11 January 2016 until 31 March 2016.
The short delay to the start of the new contracts will mean the transition to the new contracting model can start securely in April.
The government will continue to defend robustly all legal challenges issued against the procurement process for crime duty contracts. The government is confident that the tender process was robust and fair.
Legal aid crime tender 2015