An attempt to sound out the willingness of criminal defence firms to withdraw their bids for new legal aid contracts has been extended for three weeks, the Gazette has learned.

Firms will find out this month if their bids for one of a reduced number of contracts for 24-hour cover at police stations have been successful.

Members of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association and Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association were asked last month to confirm their willingness to withdraw bids ‘if sufficient bidding firms in that area indicated they would do the same’.

They also asked for confirmation from bidders that ‘have already reached a decision to refuse their tender offer’ as well as firms that have not submitted bids.

Firms had until last Friday to submit their responses. But in a message to members today, LCCSA president Jonathan Black said he felt it ‘helpful’ to extend the deadline to 21 September. Black said that during August many members were on leave and partners had been unable to meet.

‘Many members will also want to know the outcome of the negotiations with the Ministry of Justice before indicating their intention to withdraw,’ Black said.

CLSA chair Bill Waddington (pictured) confirmed the association was also extending the deadline for its survey.

The practitioner groups suspended a nationwide legal aid boycott on 21 August as a ‘goodwill gesture’ to the MoJ following a series of meetings with officials to discuss the impact of the ministry’s second 8.75% fee cut for litigators, which was introduced on 1 July.

Black said the groups ‘anticipate a reply very soon’.