Some firms have been notified of their failure to secure a new legal aid contract, the Ministry of Justice told the Gazette, as it responded to reports unsuccessful firms were receiving bad news earlier than expected.
Firms were due to find out next month if they have been successful in their bid for one or more of the 527 contracts to provide 24-hour police station cover the ministry tendered for earlier this year. The Legal Aid Agency received 1,099 bids from more than 500 organisations in 85 procurement areas, which it is currently assessing.
Reports circulated on Twitter on Friday that three London firms had received rejection letters last week regarding their applications from the Legal Aid Agency.
A spokesperson for the MoJ told the Gazette no firms had been notified of the outcome of their bids this month. However, some applicant organisations ‘were notified of the automatic failure of their bids earlier in the summer’ after the tender closed in May.
Reasons for automatic failure could include, for instance, not meeting all of the essential criteria required.
Meanwhile, the LAA confirmed it has made ‘test’ calls to ensure contracted firms ‘are carrying out their contractual and professional obligations’.
The agency set up a telephone service this month to provide information for legal aid clients seeking legal representation for Crown court cases while thousands of solicitors across the country continue their nationwide legal aid boycott, which began on 1 July when a second 8.75% fee cut was introduced.
The agency said ’multiple’ firms offering litigation and advocacy services had indicated they were willing to accept work at every Crown court in England and Wales.
Earlier this month, Solicitors Regulation Authority chief executive Paul Philip wrote to London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association president Jonathan Black informing him concern remained over a protocol created by practitioner groups for solicitors taking part in the action, despite the protocol being amended to address initial concerns raised by the regulator.
‘If firms are not prepared to act on a legally aided basis, the client should be advised to seek representation from a firm that will so act,’ Philip said.
The LAA said more test calls to contracted firms would follow.