Homes & Communities Agency slashes panel from 14 to nine firms

A total of eight firms including Ashfords, DLA Piper and Eversheds have lost their places on the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) panel, which has been slashed from a total of 14 firms to just nine. 

The national housing and regeneration agency for England, in charge of the Affordable Homes Programme, has overhauled its legal panel from four regional panels to just two lots following a review last year (12 December 2013).

Ashfords made it through two stages of the three-stage process but lost out at the last minute, while Bond Dickinson, DLA Piper, Eversheds, Pannone and Squire Sanders have also lost their panel spots following the review.

Among those who made the cut were Pinsent Masons, which appears on both the new regulatory panel and programmes panel, along with Trowers & Hamlins. DWF has also won a new spot along with Anthony Collins and Devonshires.

The new-look roster, which lasts for four years, follows a review kicked off by head of legal Isabella Freeman in December 2013 amid complaints from regional firms about not having enough work.

She said the body was considering slashing its panel by up to 50 per cent in a bid to cut costs and share work more evenly across firms. HCA asked firms to submit fixed-fee prices for specific pieces of work as well as fixed hourly rates, and said cost efficiency was at the heart of the process. 

The agency had envisaged handing between five and seven firms spots on the programmes panel, which deals with housing, procurement, company law and litigation issues among others. It had also planned to give three to five firms roles on the regulation panel.

The regulation panel deals with just four areas of law including company and commercial law, charity law and restructuring and insolvency. Seven firms have won spots on the programmes panel and five have won work on the regulatory panel – the maximum number the body was aiming for.

The review marks a break with the traditional format, where the panel was organised along regional lines with one national and three regional sub-panels in the central, south and north of England.

Among HCA’s requirements were a stipulation that firms had a mimumum of £50m professional indemnity cover for each spot as well as a minimum of £5m public liability and £10m employers’ liability cover. A panel place does not guarantee firms a volume of work or instructions and advisers will compete for mandates by way of “mini competitions” during the year. 

The process was launched in November with firms invited for interview during the first week of April for both lots.

HCA’s first panel was launched in 2010, when 14 firms were handed mandates including Berwin Leighton Paisner, Eversheds and Pinsent Masons (1 February 2010).

The new panel:

Programmes

Berwin Leighton Paisner
Browne Jacobson
DWF
Hewitsons
Pinsent Masons
Trowers & Hamlins
Walker Morris

Regulation

Anthony Collins
Devonshires
Hewitsons
Pinsent Masons
Trowers & Hamlins