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LEGAL SERVICES CCT PROPOSALS ISSUED FOR CONSULTATION

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Detailed proposals for the extension of Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) to local authority legal services ar...
Detailed proposals for the extension of Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) to local authority legal services are being issued for consultation today, said Environment Minister Tony Baldry.

A revised timetable for the implementation of legal and other white-collar CCT in the shire counties and districts following the recent changes in the Local Government Commission Review is also being issued.

Under the proposals local authorities will be able to carry out 55%, by value, of all legal work in-house without subjecting it to CCT, with smaller local authorities able to retain a minimum of £300,000 worth of work. This will enable authorities to retain the necessary in-house legal services to fulfil its democratic responsibilities and oversee bought in services.

The revised timetable takes into account the accelerated of reviews being undertaken by the Local Government Commission and will allow local authorities to concentrate on preparing for the review and reorganisation.

In reply to a Parliamentary Question from Roger Knapman MP (Stroud), Mr Baldry said: 'On 10 November 1992 my Rt. Hon. and Learned Friend the Secretary of State announced to the House the Government's decisions on proposals to extend Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) to local authority white-collar corporate and professional services, including legal services (Col.744). He undertook that the Government would discuss details of implementing these decisions with representatives of local government and other interested parties.

'Since then, my officials have had very useful discussions with the local authority associations, the Audit Commission and CIPFA in several joint working groups. Following this we are today issuing a consultation document inviting comments on detailed proposals for extending CCT to local authority legal services. Early next year, we intend to consult on detailed proposals for CCT for construction-related services - that is architecture, engineering and property management - followed by IT, finance, personnel and corporate & administrative services.

'The consultation document, copies of which I will place in the Library, includes a definition of legal services, indicates how much legal work authorities will be required to subject to CCT and gives details of modifications which we intend to make to the statutory framework for competitive tendering to ensure that authorities will continue to be able to deliver services in a way which meets their own objectives and local peoples' aspirations.

'We propose that local authorities be permitted to carry out up to 55%, by value, of all legal work using their own staff without going through competition, subject to smaller authorities being able to retain a minimum of £300,000 worth of work. This recognises that certain work must be retained in-house both to enable an authority to fulfil its democratic responsibilities and to act as an intelligent client for bought in services.

'An authority will not be able to award any of the remaining 45% of work to their own staff unless they have won it in fair and open competition. Experience with the manual services already subject to CCT has shown that competition brings not only financial savings, but also significant improvements in the management, efficiency and quality of public services. I have no reason to doubt that it will bring the same benefits for legal and other white-collar work.

'Following consideration of comments received on the proposals included in this consultation document, I will submit to the House the Statutory Instruments required under the Local Government Act 1988 to give effect to our proposals. I anticipate CCT will take effect from 1 October 1995 in metropolitan districts and in London.

'In shire counties and districts which are subject to review by the Local Government Commission, the implementation timetable for legal and other white-collar services requires some modification to reflect the acceleration of the Commission's review programme announced recently.

'Our objective is that authorities should, wherever possible, continue to subject services to the pressures of competition which can bring so many benefits. We also hope to see the same benefits realised for corporate and construction-related services as soon as possible.

'An authority's approach to organising these services is determined by the way in which its front-line services are delivered. We would not wish to see new authorities tied to inappropriate arrangements made by their predecessors, and I have therefore concluded we should not require authorities to implement CCT for their core white-collar functions when a reorganisation is expected in their area.

'I have concluded that the CCT timetable should be modified so that no county or district, or their successor authorities, will be required to implement competition for the new services before reorganisation has taken place in their area, or the decision has been taken that they will remain unchanged. New services will be introduced to the regime in a phased programme thereafter.

'This timetable will apply to all new authorities which come into being in April 1995 or April 1996, and to any areas where there is to be no change from the existing two-tier structure. Authorities reorganised at a later date will continue to benefit from the exemptions already announced. My Rt. Hon. Friend the Minister of State for Housing and Construction has today made a separate announcement about the implementation timetable for CCT for housing management services. 'My Officials will today write to the Secretaries of the Association of County Councils and Association of District Councils giving further details of these modifications. I will place a copy of that letter in the Library.'

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