A fortnight after firms were notified if they had successfully bid for new government crime contracts, concerns have been raised about the next stage of the Legal Aid Agency’s procurement process.
The Law Society and Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association have informed the agency of members’ concerns that supervisor forms are being rejected incorrectly. Those who successfully bid for new crime contracts must successfully complete the agency’s verification process.
CLSA chair Zoe Gascoyne told the Gazette that there had particularly been issues with signatures on the agency’s supervisor declaration form.
In its latest legal aid bulletin, Chancery Lane said the agency ‘has agreed to investigate each case reported to them’.
The Society has urged solicitors to read a verification guidance issued by the agency on Friday, but added: ‘If you still think your supervisor form has been rejected incorrectly, or your verification has failed for another reason you think is incorrect, contact the LAA as soon as possible via the message boards in the Bravo system.’
Gascoyne said the issues raised with the agency by the CLSA and the Society were rectified quickly. But she said there had been elements of the tender process 'that have been made far more complicated than necessary which unfortunately has added to the ongoing stress of criminal practitioners’.
The agency’s duty information form has created ‘access problems’ for many solicitors, Gascoyne noted.
As the Gazette reported in August, duty information forms have been amended multiple times since the procurement process began in July. The agency’s duty solicitor postcode tool has also been amended.
The agency’s sixth amendment notice stated: ‘As applicants are aware, a small number of queries since the launch of the procurement process have confirmed that in some areas, the duty solicitor postcode tool has not kept pace with the increasing number of changes to police stations and courts’.