8 April 2009 | Martha McKenzie-Minifie
The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has released more detailed proposals for the overhaul of buying legal aid.
The best-value tendering scheme has been under development for more than a year, with the latest plan open for consultation until 19 June. It names the two areas - Greater Manchester and Avon & Somerset - where pilots will take place if the new arrangements go ahead.
The proposals aim in part to get prices that better reflect cost variations in different criminal justice areas.
The LSC spends more than £2 billion annually on legal aid services.
But the Law Society's legal aid manager Richard Miller said the proposal would mean a cut in rates for some defence firms that were not in a position to absorb them.
He said worries about the damage price tendering may have on client interests and court processes had not been properly addressed.
Launching the proposals, LSC executive director for commissioning Hugh Barrett said that moving from a system of administratively set fees to a competitive market was the right step for many publicly funded legal services. He promised quality would be maintained.