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Legal aid firm loses review

16 May 2011

A legal aid firm that failed to secure a contract for immigration work because it ticked the wrong box by mistake has lost a judicial review to get the decision overturned.

Harrow Solicitors & Advocates is now faced with having to close its immigration department with the loss of seven jobs and annual revenue from publicly funded work worth £288,000 – about 28 per cent of its total earnings.

There is also a real chance of the firm closing altogether, with the loss of 28 jobs, managing partner Elvin Blades told the High Court.

The firm said in the electronic tender document it did not provide a drop-in centre when in fact it had had one for a number of years.

As a result the firm only scored 31 points with the Legal Services Commission, falling two points short of the minimum 33 needed to be awarded immigration work in the London area.

The LSC rejected the firm’s appeal, saying that it was the bidder’s responsibility to check the accuracy of the information supplied.

In its letter the commission also said allowing the appeal would amount to allowing the firm to amend its tender, which would be unfair on other applicants.

Ruling in Harrow Solicitors and Advocates v Legal Services Commission [2011] EWHC 1087 (Admin), the High Court said the situation was no different from a clerical error, such as putting a decimal point in the wrong place, which could seriously affect a bidder’s ability to complete contractual work profitably.

“The correction of the error in this case from the answer ‘No’ to ‘Yes’ is equally a change to the bid,” Judge Waksman QC said as he dismissed Harrow’s application.

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Legal Aid Local government