The LSC has announced the timetable for submitting ITTs for contracts to start in April 2013.
The ITT will open on Friday 14 September and close at noon on 22 October.
Organisations that have already submitted a PQQ successfully will receive an invitation to complete the ITT and do not need to do anything more.
Any organisation that missed the PQQ stage has a second chance to submit one. This will open on 14 September and close on 28 September. This is very unexpected; but will be warmly welcomed by those who missed the original deadline.
In this update:
- Legal aid and the Olympics
- Assessing the means of prisoners
- Devolved powers for judicial review
- Why LGFS claims are rejected
- LSC release annual statistics
- Calling the LSC
- Regulation of solicitors in NfPs
Legal aid bill
As we reported earlier in the week, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights criticised a number of aspects of the bill, points that were echoed in the first day of the Lords Committee Stage on Tuesday. The transcript of that debate is here, and the bill homepage on the Parliament website is also a useful resource.
Family Advocacy Scheme
The LSC have issued guidance (PDF) on claiming for work done under FAS. See also the announcement on the LSC website for more information.
Immigration and Asylum court fees
New court fees for some immigration cases have been introduced. Legally aided clients will not be required to pay the fee, and those who become legally aided during the life of the case can apply for a refund. However, if the fee is paid it is not a recoverable disbursement, since legally aided clients are exempt from paying the fee.
In other news
We reported this week also on the appointment of a new LSC chief executive, Matthew Coats, and on a potentially important development for firms not awarded a contract in the recent tender round.
Finally, have a very peaceful Christmas break and our best wishes for the year ahead.
The Mirror reports that the government “is ditching plans to cut legal aid in medical negligence cases”. While that would be a welcome move – and perhaps not unexpected; clinical negligence and domestic violence being at the top of most predictions of likely concessions – the Gazette is reporting that the Ministry of Justice is neither confirming nor denying the report and there has certainly been no official announcement. LAG speculates that it is likely that there will be such a concession, but that it has leaked rather earlier than the government would have liked.
Whatever the true position, it does seem certain that the legal aid bill is in for a much less smooth passage through the Lords than the Commons, having been heavily criticised by all speakers except the minister at second reading earlier in the week. When there are confirmed changes, we will bring them to you.
The family tender has been open now for almost two weeks, and the LSC have published the first tranche of FAQs. The deadline for the submission of questions – which must be sent via the e-tendering system – is noon on the 19th September, and the final FAQs will be published on the family tender page of the LSC website on 23rd September. The Law Society has issued a practice note to assist firms in tendering for contracts. See our earlier post if you are considering relying on Lexcel accreditation as part of your tender.
Processing times at the LSC are improving. The latest processing dates for civil and crime indicate that the LSC is now working about 4 to 6 weeks behind. The LSC is urging practitioners to sign up to submit POA1, CDS4, CDS5 and CDS7 forms online, on the basis that they will be dealt with more quickly than those submitted on paper.
The LSC continues to show no sign of having a sense of irony; the latest manifestation of this is an article on its website remonstrating with practitioners for not paying expert witnesses on time. The article is, though, useful as a reminder of the circumstances in which a payment on account can be claimed.
With just two weeks to go before the first tranche of fee cuts, the LSC is now offering training for practitioners on the new arrangements. Revised civil costs assessment guidance is currently undergoing the required consultation with representative bodies, and we hope the final version will be published in time for the 3rd October. The revised criminal legal aid manual has now been released and is available here.
Elsewhere, the committee stage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill continued. Scrutiny and debate of the legal aid clauses has now finished and the committee has moved on to other parts of the bill. Regrettably, there have been no changes to the bill as published, except for some small government amendments affecting housing legal aid. Nearly Legal has a good analysis of those clauses.
Finally, well worth reading is a post on Lucy Reed’s Pink Tape blog; both an outburst of frustration at the state of legal aid and a moving tribute to her grandfather, it should be compulsory reading at the LSC and MoJ.
In a press release yesterday, the Local Government Association (LGA) announced that it has appointed Carolyn Downs as the new Chief Executive of the organisation.
Sir Merrick Cockell, LG Group Chairman, commented on the appointment: “I am delighted to welcome Carolyn as Chief Executive of the LGA. She brings a wealth of experience to the role, having worked at every tier of government nationally, regionally and locally – and for virtually every different type of local authority.”
Carolyn expressed a genuine desire to improve legal aid administration, and her approach impressed many legal aid practitioners. Her departure at this crucial time must be a further cause for concern.
The fallout from the collapse of the Immigration Advisory Service continues. There was an excellent piece in the Guardian this week, pointing out the human cost of the loss of IAS and the wider cuts facing immigration legal aid. Following previous announcements about re-allocation of urgent cases and unused matter starts, the LSC have given an update on progress, promising news on tenders next week.
Criminal duty solicitor rotas for the period July to January have now been posted on the LSC website (a mere month after they started), and the LSC has also confirmed that their Chester office will no longer accept criminal bills. CDS4 and 5 forms should be sent to Nottingham, CDS7s to Nottingham or Liverpool, and CDS4as to Liverpool.
CDS4, 4a, 5 and 7 forms, as well as civil POA1s, can now also be submitted electronically following the roll-out of the LSC’s e-forms initiative. Details on how to sign up can be found here. The LSC argues that the process is quicker and more efficient, and leads to faster payments, than using paper forms.
Also this week, we have posted separately on extension of JR devolved powers and new crime forms. See also here for an important case on costs.
Finally, ITV’s Tonight programme next week will be called “What Price Justice?”, investigating the impact of the legal aid bill. We understand the focus will be on clinical negligence, but other areas of legal aid will be covered as well. The programme will be broadcast on Thursday 11th August at 7.30pm on ITV1.