Skip to main content

Criminal Legal Aid Services

Volume 490: debated on Friday 27 March 2009

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has today published a consultation on Best Value Tendering (BVT) of criminal legal aid services. This follows an initial LSC consultation published in December 2007 which set out the principles of how a market based approach could be introduced for the procurement of criminal defence services, together with some broad design issues. This second consultation paper sets out a detailed model for the introduction of Best Value Tendering for police station and magistrates’ court work. It describes plans to pilot BVT in two criminal justice system areas (Greater Manchester and Avon and Somerset) from autumn 2009. Following a review of the pilot, the intention is to roll out BVT across England and Wales on a phased basis during 2010 and 2011.

The proposed model takes as its starting point the recommendations of Lord Carter of Cole’s review of legal aid procurement which identified the need for fundamental reform in the way legal services are procured. His report, published in 2006, recommended a market-based approach that defined best value in terms of quality, capacity and price. The Government accepted these recommendations and committed to the implementation of a quality assured tendering process.

The proposed reforms aim to secure long term sustainability for criminal defence services by allocating work to those providers who meet the required quality standards and offer best value for money. BVT will enable solicitors’ firms to offer their services at a price which they know is sustainable for them and reflects the costs of provision in their local area. It also offers firms of all sizes the opportunity to secure the volume of work that best suits their business model, and to expand should they wish to do so. The BVT proposals affect work undertaken at the police station and magistrates’ court only; any move to introduce BVT in the Crown Court would be subject to a further consultation.

The consultation paper also describes the contracting process that will apply to firms wishing to undertake criminal defence work outside of the BVT pilot areas from July 2010.

The 12 week consultation closes on 19 June 2009. Copies of “2010 Contracts and Best Value Tendering: a Consultation” have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The document can be downloaded from the consultation section of the LSC’s website at