Council plans 'mixed bag' of legal tenders

Nicole Maley reports

THE THIRD round of tendering for legal work at Wandsworth will begin this week when the borough places its social services contract on the market.

The council, which has already split its property work between the in-house team and Ipswich firm Gotelee & Goldsmith, received more than 100 expressions of interest before applications for its litigation portfolio closed last week.

This week social services-related legal work, which largely arises out of the children and families division of Wandsworth's social services department, will be advertised in the legal and regional press.

The contract is the third of four scheduled to be placed on the market by the council, which has decided to put approximately 66 per cent of its legal work out for competition.

Borough solicitor Martin Walker confirms a "mixed bag" of planning, highways and contract work will also go out next spring.

Walker says expressions of interest on social services must be registered by 28 January with invitations to tender being issued by 20 March.The closing date for tenders is 10 May and the five-year contract is expected to start from 1 October.

He says the council "encourages and expects" in-house bids for the contract, but a provision for taking on staff should the tender be awarded to a private firm will not be written in and a costing on the contract has not been set.

"The council has no pre-determined figure in mind at this stage and we will judge bids as they are submitted," says Walker. "We don't want to impose any constraints on it. We want it to be a genuinely open competition."

The council was thrown into the spotlight last year when its first contract was initially awarded to the council team before being re-tendered and split between the in-house department and Gotelees.

Council lawyers later sent a report to Wandsworth's policy and finance committee highlighting their concerns over the tendering process and arguing against the decision to exceed the Government's recommended 45 per cent tendering minimum.