New contract amendments: as you were (mostly)

The Gazette has reported that the LSC has agreed to withdraw amendments to contracts in light of objections from the Law Society. The changes objected to were:

  • allowing the LSC to amend criminal contracts to reflect changes in CPS practice
  • increase the threshold for re-paying the LSC by instalment from £1000 to £5000
  • change the information disclosure provisions to give deemed blanket consent by firms to the LSC to disclose information publicly
  • remove the ability to undertake tolerance work

The LSC has seemingly conceded on the first three and negotiated a compromise on the fourth.

What is not entirely clear from the Gazette article is which contracts these changes apply to.

From April 2013, there will be three contracts:

  • the criminal contract, for crime firms
  • the 2010 civil contract, for mental health, community care, actions against the police, public law and clinical negligence
  • the 2013 civil contract, for immigration, housing and family

All these changes (apart from the criminal one) are already in the 2013 contract and organisations offered contracts in those categories – the bulk of civil providers – will be subject to them. The proposed changes were to the 2010 civil contract and the crime contract to bring them into line with the 2013 civil contract. Although the four changes outlined above will not now happen, other changes accepted as minor will. The full list of amendments has not yet been made public but must be soon to comply with the notice requirements if the changes are to be implemented on 1st April.

For the fourth of the proposed changes above, the ability of civil contract holders to do tolerance work outside their category, it seems that the position from 1st April will be that holders of 2013 contracts (immigration, family and housing) will not be able to do tolerance work at all. Holders of 2010 contracts (other civil categories) will not be able to do any tolerance work other than certificated community care work. This is therefore a very limited concession and the general rule remains that tolerance work will go.

This is perhaps the first illustration of what will become many; the difficulties of having multiple contracts. Some firms will be operating under three different contracts simultaneously, and there is clear scope for confusion about which of the standard terms apply to which bits of their work. This is an inevitable consequence of the LSC’s decision to retender for some categories not others, on the basis of new contracts with some significant differences to continuing ones.

 

For more on the new legal aid scheme, see our LASPO Resources page, follow us on Twitter @legalaidhbk or pre-order the new Handbook by emailing direct.orders@marston.co.uk

 

 

 

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