Another nail in Grayling's coffin. The solicitors bidding process was a shambles and will be judicially reviewed

19 Oct 2015 at 15:21

Oh dear, I should be jumping for joy that another flagship policy of the Ghastly Grayling has bitten the dust. But his total incompetence in handling the bidding process for the new two tier system of awarding contracts to solicitors is going to lead to a lot of heartache for the unsuccessful firms who will have an agonising wait for judicial review before they decide how many highly qualified professionals will have to be sacked. The whole process has been a total fiasco and many firms were stunned at the eccentricity of the awards which were announced last Friday. There were some very odd decisions. You may recall that before the May election officials warned Grayling that it would be wise to await the outcome before pressing ahead. This was advice that he totally ignored.

Now a very senior whistleblower has blown his whistle. Freddie Hurlston was the bid assessor from July to September. He has complained to the head of the Legal Aid Agency that best practice is to have suitably qualified staff equipped with a timetable. He is the view these were not met. Rather than legal aid professionals, staff at the Brook Street Bureau were employed and told that unless they processed 35 questions a day they would not be paid. All in all 50,000 questions had to be assessed. Hurlston claims that that this could not have been done properly and fairly.

Needless to say that the Law Society is incandescent with rage and will be launching a series of challenges in the High Court. I am told that the Cabinet Office has become involved and are of the view that the process was a complete shambles. Worse, bidders were expressly forbidden to use consultants so that there was a level playing field. This has been flouted with some larger firms spending thousands of pounds on them.

In many ways this is a gift to Michael Gove. He can now abandon the whole ghastly policy without criticising his predecessor publicly. This could be good news to the thousands of family solicitors who would have been thrown onto the scrapheap. And very good news for the weak and vulnerable who would be without adequate representation.

Another nail in Grayling’s coffin