Our thanks to Osman Ismail at DPS Software for this latest update on developments on the criminal legal aid front…

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has announced that the two pilot schemes to test best value tendering (BVT) will go ahead. Plans have been set out to test the tendering process for defence work carried out by solicitors in police stations and magistrates' courts. Testing in the two pilot areas, Greater Manchester and Avon & Somerset, will commence in July 2010, and will be fully evaluated. If successful, BVT will then be introduced in all other areas of England and Wales after 2013, a longer evaluation period than LSC committed on.
Following extensive consultation, the LSC has modified its plans for BVT. Modifications include:
• Maintained and improved quality requirements for all firms who take part in tendering, and quality requirements for delivery of service throughout the contract for sentence
• Introduction of a variable cap on an individual firm's market share, so that firms have greater freedom to bid for higher volumes of work
• Introduction of a 10% tolerance quota for 'own client' work, so that BVT firms can work on 'own client' cases outside their home area
• Acceptance of the online bidding system for tendering, which was preferred by the majority of firms
• A decision that BVT contract holders should have exclusive rights to work in magistrates' courts to further protect their access to cases

DPS Software will be updating their DPS Crime application to handle the tendering process once the LSC have confirmed the specification for software providers.