HL Deb 05 November 1993 vol 549 cc151-2WA
Lord Brougham and Vaux

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What are their proposals for a de minimis threshold for compulsory competitive tendering of legal services.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

Competition provides many benefits to local authorities, including better managed services, higher quality work and significant financial savings. However, we recognise that it also brings with it additional administrative requirements which need to be taken into account.

My honourable friend the Minister for Local Government and Planning announced in another place on 15th June 1993 that we intended to apply the principle of a de minimis threshold to corporate and construction-related services as part of the decision to implement CCT for these services. He made clear that, for the white collar services, an authority also needs to retain a satisfactory number of good quality staff to carry out work which is not suitable for compulsory competitive tendering. He indicated that we would discuss with local authority representatives the most appropriate threshold for each of the white-collar services.

Following discussions on the threshold for legal services, we have concluded that local authorities should be permitted to carry out up to £300,000 of legal work a year using their own staff without being required to award that work through competition. This is broadly equivalent to the cost of employing six qualified legal staff, and will ensure that all authorities continue to have the legal skills necessary to serve local people effectively.

Those authorities exempted from CCT will nevertheless be free to tender services voluntarily. Many will no doubt take the opportunity to improve services and reduce costs by giving private sector legal services the chance to tender for work.

We intend to consult on the proposed competitive regime for local authority legal services, including details of this proposed de minimis threshold. Consultation will begin in December, and we will make final decisions in spring of next year.