Legal Aid Reform – London Compet

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					Legal Aid Reform – London Competitive Tendering in Context
Embargoed until 00.01, 28 January, 2005 Introduction The introduction of competitive tendering in London is the latest initiative in the development of the legal aid scheme through its 55 year history. Legal aid is a vital public service, which provides access to legal advice, assistance and representation for over two million people a year. It is also a significant area of expenditure: in 2003/04 it cost £2bn of which 60% (£1.1bn) was spent on crime. The legal aid budget, like any other area of government expenditure is limited. This means that more people can be helped if the cost of individual cases is lower. The Legal Services Commission is continuously working to improve both quality for the legal aid client and value for money for the taxpayer. Over the last ten years we have introduced a number of specific initiatives. We believe that we can further improve both quality and value for money through managed competition and this brief paper seeks to put the introduction of competitive tendering in London in the context of this overall programme of reform History The first formal system of legal aid was introduced in 1949 as part of the wider creation of the post-war welfare state. Thereafter the system grew piecemeal with the addition of new areas of coverage such as easy access to legal advice on any matter of English law under the green form scheme in the early 1970s, and the creation of a formal system of free police station advice in the mid 1980s. The current reform programme began in the early 1990s when the responsibility for managing legal aid was transferred from the Law Society to the newly created Legal Aid Board (LAB) in 1989, which in turn became the Legal Services Commission in 2000. Improving Quality The introduction of Franchising (1994), the Specialist Level Quality Mark (2000) civil contracting (2000) and the General Criminal Contract (2001) have all improved the quality of the services provided to legal aid clients by establishing a framework that sets standards for practice management, client care and service delivery. Successful as these measures are, they have always been seen as a proxy for the quality of advice given. In partnership with the legal profession, we are now developing measures that look at the actual quality of advice given and the outcomes achieved for the client. The quality measures are being developed independently from London Competitive Tendering and in the future will form the basis of supplier management for all firms.

-2Controlling Costs Our approach to managed competition has been developed in conjunction with the Department for Constitutional Affairs’ Fundamental Legal Aid Review. It is part of a wider series of reforms to help control both civil and criminal legal aid expenditure. This has seen us move from a system of paying for legal aid work at hourly rates set by the courts, to systems based on prescribed hourly rates and standard, graduated and fixed fees. Recent reforms have included the introduction of individual case contracts for very high cost criminal cases (2001); reductions in both the scope and the rates of pay for work in the police station and magistrates’ court (2004); and the introduction of fixed fees for some civil cases (also 2004). Sustainability The programme of reform is not only about improving quality and value for money. We also believe that concentrating work in the hands of efficient suppliers, and enabling them to benefit from their own efficiency savings, will create a more sustainable legal aid scheme for our clients, our suppliers and the taxpayer, now and in the future.

Legal Services Commission January 2005