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Bar claims credit for delaying competitive tendering

6 December 2011

Michael Todd QC, incoming chairman of the Bar Council, said the government’s decision to delay competitive tendering for criminal legal aid by two years was the result of “a sustained effort by the Bar”.

Justice secretary Ken Clarke announced last week that the government was postponing a consultation on competitive tendering for criminal legal aid from the end of this year until the autumn of 2013 (see, 1 December 2011). The decision means that implementation of the new regime is unlikely to happen before 2015.

“There can be no doubt that this decision has been heavily influenced by the sustained pressure which the Bar, through the CBA, circuit leaders and Bar Council, has placed upon government in opposition to these reforms,” Todd said.

The Bar chairman-elect said he was present with Peter Lodder QC at a meeting with director of access to justice Catherine Lee at the MoJ when she handed Lodder a copy of Clarke’s proposed ministerial statement “and made clear that this decision was a reflection of the sustained effort by the Bar to persuade the government of the risks in pressing forward with price-based competition.

“It is testament to the continued hard work of this council that its arguments have been recognised and acted on. However, this is a delay, not a cancellation. There is much more to be done. There are many more conversations to be had.

“Welcome though those developments may be, our message to government has not changed. It is that we must invest in value, not simply in price.”

Todd said the Bar must be “lean, cost effective and responsive” and must adapt to meet challenges, including adapting business models.

He said 5,000 out of 15,000 barristers were now ‘public access’ trained, which could give them direct access to the public without the need for a solicitor.

Todd added he was chairing a working group to “look at the feasibility of a service which would provide BSB-regulated entities and public access barristers with an escrow account facility in which can be placed ‘client monies’ and which will be administered centrally from one location by a third party.

“Already considerable interest has been displayed by a number of potential providers of this service.”

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