The Legal Aid Agency official in charge of commissioning new contracts is leaving his £185,000 job at the end of the week, the Ministry of Justice said in a surprise announcement this morning.

Hugh Barrett (pictured), director of legal aid commissioning and strategy, will leave the agency on Friday after nearly eight years. 

As director of legal aid commissioning and strategy, Barrett’s responsibilities included commissioning and contract management of legal aid providers in England and Wales, and overseeing the public defender service.

The news was revealed in a story posted on the agency’s website, entitled ‘restructure looks to the future’.

Announcing a ‘smaller agency with more streamlined processes’, the announcement states that a new executive leadership team has been created for the agency. The new team will be responsible for ‘high-level strategy and business-planning decisions’, the announcement states.

Barrett’s responsibilities will be picked up by other senior leaders, it adds.

LAA chief executive Shaun McNally paid tribute to Barrett ‘for the huge contribution he has made during his time with the organisation’.

According to the agency’s annual report and accounts for 2015-2016, Barrett’s employment contract began on 1 December 2008 and there is a three-month notice period.

Total employment costs for Barrett in 2015-16 added up to £180,000-£185,000 – which included £140,000-£145,000 in salary and fees, and pension-related benefits of £40,000.

McNally added: ‘I believe the changes we are now making will help us to capitalise on the achievements of the first few years of the LAA’s existence. Our aim is to build on our successes in a number of areas. For example, faster processing, clearing backlogs and reducing errors.’

McNally will head the new executive leadership team, which comprises:

  • Director of finance and digital: James McEwen;
  • Deputy director of digital: Laurence Lewis;
  • Head of high-cost civil complex cases: Malcolm Bryant;
  • Joint heads of service development and commissioning: Lynn Evans, Laura Wensley;
  • Head of crime case management: Daniel Flury;
  • Head of civil case management: Jane Harbottle;
  • Head of assurance: Amana Humayan;
  • Head of corporate centre: Sally Jones;
  • Head of contract management: John Sirodcar;
  • Head of public defender service: Clare Toogood;
  • Principal legal adviser to the LAA: Ruth Wayte; and
  • HR director: Joyce Irvine.

The post of head of planning and performance is currently vacant.

The announcement also states that five new committees with senior managers and ‘subject matter experts’ will support the executive leadership team: investment, operations, finance and risk, ‘change board’, and people.

The agency is currently tendering for new crime contracts, which come into force on 1 April next year. Earlier this year the then justice secretary Michael Gove scrapped a controversial ‘two-tier’ contracting regime, for which firms competed to secure one of 527 duty provider contracts.