Tendering process for legal advice centres is flawed, warns former charities minister

Former charities minister Alun Michael has said the tendering process for the Legal Services Commission’s new community legal advice centres and networks fails to understand the third sector.

Speaking in a Commons debate, Michael, now a backbencher, claimed "there is still general concern that the Legal Services Commission does not understand the nature of the third sector and the added value that is provided by organisations such as citizens advice bureaux".

He added: "Frankly, the tendering of services within Government sometimes misses the point in relation to that added value."

The Legal Services Commission is introducing community legal advice centres and networks across the country.

All legal advice funding from the commission and local councils will be channelled through these new one-stop shops. Many charity-run advice centres and citizens advice bureaux fear they will close if they don't win contracts.

But Bridget Prentice, justice minister, said that voluntary organisations would be an integral part of the future of legal advice.

"When the legal advice centres are rolled out, the not-for-profit organisations will be part of the process, so that the recommendations about the shape of the future of the service will be in their hands," she told MPs.

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