On a Second Reading

Perhaps the most telling phrase in the entire documentis “we have worked closely with Lord Carters team”. This project, despite its longevity, has become a delivery mechanism for the “market based reform” of Legal Aid procurement. As we predicted on the recent Carter Training tour – “minimum value contracts” crop up as does talk of consortia or “lead supplier” arrangements to allow smaller firms to meet this.
To a degree this is Franchising Mark II, save that it involves “significantly higher up-front entry criteria”. In brief these relate to previous audit history (good supplier reputation or GSR as we’ve called it for years), more demanding financial and business planning requirements and, surprise, surprise a good Peer Review outcome. In addition there will be the use of a new file assessment process combining old franchising audit, cost compliance and data verification – no lying about your end points!
The Commissions major marketing angle is the promise of a new relationship of partnership and trust with a lighter audit and inspection touch. As the LAPG say below this is to be welcomed. But so too are mom and apple pie and no place like home.
In fact the audit regime has been moving in this direction for some time. On-site audits are no longer the routine annual plod they once were – which is not necessarily a good thing. Additional inspection is usually cost related, CCA or “high” average cost inspired – often with significant penalties. It is sad therefore to see the words “contract compliance” reappear especially when, on the basis of our experience they get initial categorisation wrong 4 times out of 5.
There is also a lot to agree with the LAPG over the frustrations of trying to achieve A Peer Review “Excellence” rating on “Threshold Competent” (or arguably Below Competent”) levels of remuneration. Can anyone do ever a “Competent Plus” Divorce on ?148? And break even? A small ray of hope is that there will be a period of grace to establish Excellence or Competence Plus with 2009 as a final cut off point.
You have until early June to respond and we will be briefing, in tandem with our Peer Review course. The sessions will be on the mornings and at the same venues between 11am and 1pm. Sandra is by the phones.

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