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The Legal Aid Agency launch it's 2021 Crime Tender


Back in June 2021 I wrote an article setting out the history and pitfalls of LAA Tenders. On 16th June the LAA had published the schedule for its Crime Tender confirming that the new Crime Contract would commence on 1st October 2022.

Well yesterday, the LAA published its IFA v1, firing the starting pistol for the tender. The start date for the contract is confirmed as 1st October 2022.

As trailed in my earlier article, the initial term is only 12 months with the right of the LAA to extend for up to another 2 years.  Will this deter new entrants? Would you set up a new business, obtain SRA authorisation, LEXCEL or SQM with all the attendant costs and risk for a 12-month contract at legal aid rates?

The “good” news is that it’s not a competitive tender. The LAA state: “1.2 The LAA is inviting Tenders for one of an unlimited number of Crime Contracts, for the delivery of Contract Work from 00.00 on 1st October 2022.”

The bad news is that Bravo Solutions is back!! I would suggest that you check your log ins now and make sure anyone who had a log-in who has left your firm is removed from your list of authorised users. Also, express an interest in this “Project” and download the SQ and ITT. Familiarise yourself with the system again…but don’t press submit quite yet!!

Then, take out your diary and carefully enter the KEY DATES in the IFA e.g.

1.4       The Deadline for submitting a Tender is 5pm on 30th November 2021.

2.5       In accordance with the verification process set out at Section 8 of this IFA, Applicants will be required to submit compliant verification information to the LAA by Verification Date of 23.59 on 27th March 2022 (the “Verification Date”), which the LAA confirms that it accepts as meeting the requirements.

2.11     LEXCEL & SQM audit dates – note the various dates in this section e.g. where the Applicant’s current Quality Standard certificate expires between 28th March and 30th  September 2022, in the case of SQM a copy of their current Quality Standard certification and written confirmation from the LAA’s auditing body of the date on which their next audit will be carried out (ensuring that there is no lapse in time between the end of their current certificate and the audit taking place). In the case of Lexcel, a copy of their current Quality Standard certification and written confirmation from the Lexcel auditing body of the date on which their next audit will be carried out (ensuring that there is no lapse in time between the end of their current certificate and the audit taking place).

3.7       The first Rota will commence at 00.00 on 1st October 2022 and will run until 23:59:59 on 2nd January 2023. It will consist of all those Duty Solicitors Engaged by Applicants who have successfully tendered for Duty Schemes and who have provided compliant verification information by the Verification Date and from whom the LAA has received compliant CRM12s by 23.59 on 25th May 2022. The second Rota will commence at 00.00 on 3 January 2023 and will run until 23:59:59 on 31st March 2023.

So use the Post Code Tool shown at section 3.11 to check the eligibility of each office to join a duty scheme. Be careful if you intend to move offices. Working from home (WFH) may not be an option here so beware hybrid contracts of employment!

The Duty Solicitor Postcode Tool, which is a .pdf document can be found at:  

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/crime-contract-2022-tender

Note special rules apply to London as to choice of adult and youth courts.  

It is worth doing a first draft of the SQ and ITT now as you only have until 7th November to submit any FAQ to the LAA. (see 6.2).

You should also download the Standard Crime Contract 2022 documents including the Specification as some clauses will have changed since 2017.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/standard-crime-contract-2022

NB The Crime and Prison Law Supervisor Declarations have been updated to an October 2021 version. You will notice that the declaration box wording has changed. You will also note the Route B form. You need to ensure your Supervisors will be able to pass verification.   

We wish you every success with your tenders. However, be very careful when completing the SQ and ITT as it is very easy to make a mistake.

There seems to be some new language this time e.g.

  • Pre-Pack Administration
  • Environmental obligations – might Legal Aid Crime Lawyers have to buy Electric Vehicles in the future, I muse!!!!

 

Help & Support from cpm21

  1. We will provide the usual consultancy help with the tenders within our capacity on a first come first serve basis with priority given to our existing and regular client firms.
  2. Support to help pass your SQM or LEXCEL audits – again book early as our diaries are already pretty full since lockdown was eased.
  3. We may run an online or Face to Face (F2F) course in relation to this tender when the answers to FAQ have been published in mid-November if we sense there is demand for such a course.

Wayne Williams