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Legal Aid

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 9 September 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many applications for legal aid from residents in (a) Bexleyheath and Crayford and (b) the London Borough of Bexley were granted in each of the last three years. (288771)

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) does not record the grant of legal aid by constituency or borough. The following tables show the numbers granted in the areas requested, based on providers within the following postcodes covering those areas.

Bexleyheath—DA6 and DA7

Crayford—DAI

LB Bexley—DAI, DA5, DA6, DA7, DA8, DA14, DA15, DA16, DA17, DA18

Table 1: Instances of civil legal help reported by providers (excluding matters started under the community legal advice telephone advice scheme)

Financial year

Area

New matter starts

2006-07

Bexleyheath and Crayford

1,330

LB Bexley

1,972

2007-08

Bexleyheath and Crayford

1,199

LB Bexley

1,510

2008-09

Bexleyheath and Crayford

1,599

LB Bexley

2,340

Table 2: Civil representation certificates granted by the LSC

Financial year

Area

Certificates

2006-07

Bexleyheath and Crayford

473

LB Bexley

662

2007-08

Bexleyheath and Crayford

456

LB Bexley

603

2008-09

Bexleyheath and Crayford

507

LB Bexley

671

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what estimate he has made of the cost to his Department of implementing best value tendering for criminal legal aid; (289107)

(2) what estimate he has made of the effects of his Department’s expenditure of best value tendering for criminal legal aid over (a) the full contracting cycle and (b) the next five years.

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) published a response to consultation on Best Value Tendering (BVT) of criminal defence services on 20 July 2009 and a copy has been placed in the House Library. The response sets out the LSC’s intention to pilot BVT in Greater Manchester and Avon and Somerset during the period of the next criminal contract, which will take effect in July 2010 and is expected to run until 2013.

The estimated administrative cost of implementing a Best Value Tendering (BVT) pilot is £748,000 in 2009-10 and £263,000 in 2010-11. A breakdown of the main areas of expenditure is set out in the following table and includes some upfront development costs which would not be reincurred if BVT were subsequently implemented outside the pilot areas. These figures relate to the costs of implementation and exclude costs associated with policy development or consultation.

£000

Item

Costs 2009-10

Costs 2010-11

Staff costs and changes to administrative systems

473

263

Auction, including auction prototype and provider training and support

250

n/a

Pilot review1

25

n/a

Total

748

263

1 the costs of the pilot review are subject to revision once the scope and method of review have been determined.

The aim of BVT is to secure a sustainable future for criminal legal aid services over the longer term by enabling prices to reflect local costs of delivery. It is impossible to predict the outcome of a competitive tender exercise as prices are expected to vary depending on the costs of providing a service in a particular area and the nature of the local market. While the Government have always recognised that prices could increase in some areas, it expects that BVT would encourage greater efficiencies on the part of legal aid providers and lead to some savings overall. However, we cannot be precise about what those savings might be.

No decisions have been made about implementing BVT outside of the two pilot areas and this will be dependent on the outcome of a full evaluation of the pilots in 2012. Any such wider implementation would not begin before the next contracting cycle is due to begin in 2013.

The pilot tender exercise will provide a much clearer indication of the savings or costs in the pilot areas, and will enable the LSC to estimate the potential cost impact if BVT were to be rolled out more widely from 2013.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the likely effect on the number of solicitors working on criminal legal aid cases of the use of best value tendering. (289109)

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) published a response to consultation on Best Value Tendering (BVT) of criminal defence services on 20 July 2009 and a copy has been placed in the House Library. The response sets out the LSC’s intention to pilot BVT in Greater Manchester and Avon and Somerset from 2010 and to evaluate the pilot in 2012 before making any decisions on implementing BVT in further areas.

BVT will not affect the total volume of criminal legal aid work available within a particular area, but there is the potential for many different outcomes in terms of who secures contracts, and within this there is the potential that some current providers will not be successful. However, we expect that other providers will secure greater volumes of work and may be able to expand and take on staff. BVT is also expected to encourage efficiencies on the part of providers and so may have an impact on the way in which firms choose to structure themselves.

With respect to the number of firms, the LSC will require a minimum number of between four and eight firms in each scheme in the pilot areas. However, the maximum number of firms that potentially could win BVT contracts is much higher. The BVT pilot model sets a low minimum bid size in order to enable firms of all sizes to compete on an equal basis. The impact assessment, included within the consultation response, contains more detail on the potential impact on the structure of the market in the two pilot areas.