The legal aid minister, Shailesh Vara, made a written statement to the House of Commons today. In it he said that the second cut to Crown Court litigator fees of 8.75% will go ahead, effective from 1 July. The tender process for duty crime contracts will also go ahead. But the cut to advocate fees has been shelved.
We do not anticipate there would be any major impact on future clients eligible for criminal legal aid services. Any impact on clients would be felt through a lack of legal aid coverage should providers be unable to sustain a second fee reduction. We believe that any potential problems with sustainability are mitigated by the changes to legal aid procurement and the harmonisation of fee structures, which seek to improve efficiency and simplify administration in the criminal legal aid provider market.
This conclusion may well be because the assumption made was that “Providers will deliver the same level and quality of service as at present”. If a starting assumption is that the policy won’t impact suppliers, it is unsurprising when the conclusion is that the policy won’t impact suppliers. We suspect the reality will be rather different.
Meanwhile, the LAA confirmed that it had received 1,099 bids from 500 separate organisations for duty provider contracts, which it described as “sufficient to undertake a viable competition”. We anticipate notifications of the outcome will be sent out in September.