The government is urgently trying to plug a hole in the provision of legal aid housing and debt services in Hull – widening its search to firms that may not meet formal contractual requirements.

The Legal Aid Agency has invited firms to submit an ‘expression of interest’ to deliver legal aid housing and debt services in the City of Kingston upon Hull procurement area after identifying 'an issue with access’.

A spokesperson for the agency told the Gazette: ‘Following the withdrawal of Howells LLP from providing housing and debt advice services in Hull, we are working to find a replacement provider as quickly as possible.

‘Those at immediate risk of losing their home can still receive comprehensive advice and help from the Hull Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme, and advice is also available via civil legal advice.’

Howells managing partner Peter Mahy confirmed that the South Yorkshire firm had closed its Hull office in February.

He said the firm, which has offices in Barnsley, Sheffield and Rotherham, plans to open new offices in the South Yorkshire area.

The agency is seeking interest from firms that currently hold a 2013 Standard Civil Contract. The invitation states that firms do not need to be existing housing and debt providers.

The agency is also inviting submissions from firms ‘that would like to deliver the housing and debt services, but feel that they are not able to fully meet the presence or the supervisor requirements set out in the [Standard Civil Contract]’.

The invitation states that there will be 166 matter starts in housing. Firms awarded work in the procurement area will also receive four matter starts in debt per year.

The deadline for expressions of interest is midday on 14 April.