Tag Archives: tenders

Housing court duty tender cancelled

As we reported here, the High Court quashed the LAA’s decision to re-configure the boundaries of court duty schemes and tender based on the larger scheme areas. It found the basis for the plan to be so lacking in evidence as to render the decision irrational. As a result the LAA has now announced that it has cancelled the tender. Any bidders previously notified of a successful outcome will not now be awarded a contract. Although the announcement does not set out next steps, we understand the LAA has now written to existing providers offering a one year extension to 30 September 2019. The work will be based on the 2013 contract specification, not the new 2018 specification.The purpose of the one year extension is said to be

to enable a review of relevant policy and to provide the time needed to prepare and run a new procurement exercise for these services.

Existing providers who wish to continue will be required to have a 2018 contract in housing and debt. It is not clear what provision the LAA has put in place where the existing contract holder has not bid for a 2018 contract, which would mean they cannot continue and therefore there is no provider to continue the existing scheme until September 2019.

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Housing Court Duty Tender Quashed

The High Court has quashed the LAA’s tender for housing court duty possession schemes in R (Law Centres Federation Limited) v Lord Chancellor [2018] EWHC 1588 (Admin). The Law Centres Federation argued that the decision to reduce the number of contracts available by increasing the size of scheme areas to cover multiple courts was irrational and in breach of the public sector equality duty.

Andrews J was heavily critical of the LAA and MoJ’s approach to decision making, in particular the gathering of evidence. She found that a series of questionable assumptions without data had been made, and the position of the representative bodies mis-represented. Submissions to ministers were “woefully inadequate” and necessary enquires had not been carried out. As a result, the minister making the decision was misled and not properly briefed, and consequently reached a decision no minister, properly briefed and in possession of all the facts, could reasonably have reached.

It is not yet known whether the Lord Chancellor will appeal or what action the LAA will take to ensure schemes can operate beyond September 2018 now that the tender process awarding new contracts has been quashed, with existing providers already given notice of termination. We will report developments.

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2018 Civil Contracts Update

Just before Easter, the LAA released some more information about the 2018 civil tender process.

The failed discrimination tender will be re-run, though in the education category existing providers have agreed to continue, so no re-tender will be necessary.

In housing the LAA has failed to secure court duty provision in Cornwall. In 39 procurement areas, no or only one compliant bid for face to face contracts was received, so the LAA will be re-tendering in late April 2018. These areas include the whole of the South West of England beyond Bristol and Somerset, much of northern England outside the major urban areas and parts of the Midlands. Meanwhile, the Law Centres Network has been given permission to judicially review the court duty tender process as a whole, with a hearing listed for next month.

In family, there were 7 areas with no or one bidder, and 6 in immigration.

The full list of areas that will be re-tendered can be found in Annex A of the LAA’s update, here.

This level of procurement failure is unprecedented in legal aid. The initial tender exercise failed to find any successful bidders in two whole areas of law – education and discrimination – and leaves many areas of the country without meaningful access to legal aid in other areas. It is a further development of a process of market failure which has been underway for a long time, accelerated by LASPO, where in many places it is no longer viable to continue legal aid work. It is difficult to see how a repeated tender exercise – based on the same scope restrictions, payment rates, and contract terms – will yield a significantly different outcome. Last week Community Law Partnership, a top firm of housing lawyers in Birmingham, tweeted a typical case of a family turned away from housing assistance and only housed after a threat of judicial review. The entire thread sums up the value of the work they and others like them do – and ended with a reminder of why there are ever fewer who can.

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LAA cancels tender for education and discrimination contracts

The LAA has announced that it is terminating the tender for CLA telephone contracts in the education and discrimination categories because “insufficient compliant tenders” were received, meaning there would not be enough successful bidders to run the service.

As there are currently only a very small number of contract holders, this suggests that there were no or very few bidders prepared or able to deliver the new contracts due to start later this year.

Education and discrimination are gateway exclusive categories – all cases must go through the telephone service and there are no separate face to face providers – all face to face services are carried out by the telephone contract providers, if they deem it necessary.

It is not clear what the future of education and discrimination services will be. The LAA says it will discuss next steps with affected organisations.

But if there are currently no providers willing to bid, or no providers able to demonstrate they can provide services of sufficient quality at an acceptable price, it is hard to see how that will change between now and October, when the new contracts were due to start.

The MoJ decided in 2012 to move education and discrimination services to the gateway with a small number of contracts. At the time many warned that there were significant risks with this approach. Numbers using the service have been lower than expected throughout. And there was concern that such a reduction in the provider base meant that there was no slack if contract holders pulled out or were unable to continue. It appears that fear has also been realised. Hopefully there is enough time for the MoJ and LAA to rethink before education and discrimination legal aid disappears altogether.

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HPCDS tender deadline extended

The LAA has issued some clarification regarding the volumes of services available, and as a result has extended the deadline for submitting bids to 11 December at 5pm. Applicants should be using version 3 of the Information for Applicants. More detail can be found here.

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Civil and family tender 2018 FAQs published

The Legal Aid Agency has published the frequently asked questions and answers in respect of the 2018 face to face contracts. There are two documents you should consider:

  • FAQs relating to the Seelction Questionnaire
  • FAQs relating to the Face to Face contracts themselves

The LAA has also published a separate FAQ document dealing with the CLA telephone service tender (to be found further down on the same page).

Once you have checked the answers against your response to the tender and made any changes necessary, you will be ready to submit.

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Civil and family tender update

There have been several developments since we reported that the LAA opened the tender for face to face civil and family contracts to start in September 2018.

Tender open for HPCDS

The Agency has gone ahead with a complex price competitve tender for Housing Possession Court Duty Schemes (HPCDS), which seems unlikely to solve the crisis in finding sufficient practitioners to provide the schemes; but only time will tell. More information can be found here.

Most people are finding the process straightforward

However, most of the feedback we are receiving from practitioners bidding for face to face contracts is that the process is more straightforward than they anticipated.

People like the button which checks whether they have responded to all the questions they need to.

They also like being able to download a PDF of their bid. On the relevant ITT page, look out for the three little dots in the top right hand corner. If you click on that and then select ‘printable view’, you will be able to download a PDF of your bid.

FAQs

The LAA has issued some initial frequently asked questions – FAQs. These are worth reading. Amongst other things, they confirm that you will be able to withdraw from part of your bid without jeopardising the rest of it (FAQ 10.1).

Miscellaneous NMS

All successful bidders will get 5 miscellaneous NMS; but you can bid for 25 or more to undertake compensation claims for vicitims of trafficking and modern slavery. ATLEU (legal charity the Anti Trafficking and Legal Exploitation Unit) is encouraging practitioners to apply. They point out that this work is ideally suited to employment lawyers, discriminantion lawyers, personal injury lawyers and civil litigators more generally. With claims for failure to pay the National Minimum Wage (which are often a feature of such cases) being worth upwards of £100,000, perhaps this is worth considering? More details can be found on ATLEU’s website.

 

 

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