The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has announced
a one-year extension to the criminal legal aid contract. The tender round for new contracts to commence from next year was due to be launched in April. The LAA decided that, in light of the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, this should be postponed as it believes it would have added ‘further pressure during an already challenging period’.
In response to the announcement, Law Society president David Greene expressed concern that the extension might mean a delay in changes recommended by the ongoing Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid
. He warned
: ‘Hard-pressed practitioners are keen to see the review’s findings implemented as quickly as possible after its conclusion … There is a grave danger that when those changes come it will be too little too late.’
Letters from the LAA confirming the extension should be sent to providers via email today (17 February 2021). Providers will also be given the option of extending their contracts for a further six-month period until 30 September 2022. Replies to the contract extension letter need to be returned to the LAA by 12 pm on 8 March 2021.