Legal aid U-turn: price competitive tendering to be scrapped, says justice secretary

Plans to cut legal aid spending by introducing price competitive tendering (PCT, the awarding of contracts to the lowest bidders) have been abandoned, justice secretary Chris Grayling has revealed in an interview in the Times newspaper.

The move is understood to be part of an agreement reached between the government and the Law Society, and is a response to pressure from across the profession to abandon a plan that would have damaged the fairness and quality of the justice system. Following this second U-turn on plans to reform legal aid, which previously included denying defendants any choice of solicitor, Grayling will publish another consultation outlining new ways to save £220 million from the budget. This will include a proposal to cut all administrative fees by 17.5%, while The Law Society Gazette reports that the newly proposed reforms also include the introduction of two criminal contracts, one for firms’ own client work and one for duty solicitors.

Meanwhile, the president of the CILEx, Stephen Gowland, has also called for CILEx's inclusion in the consultation. He said: "The secretary of state must acknowledge that it is not just the solicitors and the Law Society with experience and expertise in these areas. Any changes to the duty rota for police stations should reflect that chartered legal executive advocates also deliver duty rota services, and provide criminal legal aid services. The Ministry of Justice should also be mindful of the proposed increase of independent practice rights of Chartered Legal Executives, which will further expand the practitioner pool in these areas. As such it is imperative that…CILEx is represented on the panel of criminal lawyers reviewing the legal process."

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