What with one thing and another, legal aid solicitors have had a busy time lately. On top of their day jobs, many have been busy preparing their bids for 527 new duty provider contracts. Still, a few were looking forward to a relaxing May Day bank holiday weekend.
Until Sunday morning that is, when any hopes of a lie-in were dashed by the bleeping of email alerts. The message, an auto-alert from something called bravosolution.co.uk, was headed: ‘IMPORTANT: SUBMIT YOUR RESPONSE FOR itt_326 ON Legal Aid Agency’, followed by ‘IMPORTANT NOTICE: There are only two days left to respond to ITT (invitation to tender).’ Helpfully, it continued: ‘If your response has not been submitted by the deadline it will not be accepted.’
Just in case the 5 May deadline had slipped anyone’s mind, the message was repeated: 85 times, one for every duty scheme.
No doubt there is a good reason to give bidders for government contracts – especially small businesses – a gentle reminder of deadlines. But if the system is so inflexible it cannot cope with public holidays and weekends, this does not bode well for the procurement as a whole.
Perhaps we’re wrong. Perhaps the messages prompted dozens of solicitors to throw off their duvets with the cry: ‘Great heavens! I knew there was something I had to do before the football today.’ But Obiter suspects a more typical response was unprintable. Alas, no doubt with an eye to provisions of the Malicious Communications Act 1998, the emails concluded: ‘Please do not reply to this message.’