The compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) regime has been slammed as inconsistent and confusing by solicitors from 30 local government authorities in London.
In a report forwarded to the Government, the London Boroughs' CCT Lawyers Group says it is working in demanding circumstances against a legislative back-drop that is subject to change on an almost monthly basis.
The report, Comments on Changes to CCT Framework for Professional Services and Housing Management, was published last month.
"We find it extraordinary that nine years since the Local Government Act 1988, there is still such a lack of clarity and a surfeit of confusion around the CCT regime," say the report's authors.
Lawyers say that while they empathise with the drive for quality, efficiency and value for money, this was not always achieved by applying the full rigours of CCT to a particular activity.
They claim it is often not cost-effective to prepare and run through a complex tendering exercise and have called for the minimum contract for CCT to be £300,000.
CCT Lawyers Group chair, Jon Waldman, said an election year had added to the general uncertainty surrounding the policy and his members often bore the brunt of council staff anger at the constant upheaval.
"I think traditionally people in local government have been hostile to CCT from its inception," he said. "There is a fair degree of frustration."
Waldman said high street solicitors had little stomach for bidding for legal contracts, fearing it could endanger the positive working relationships which they had established with council colleagues.
"They would prefer to compete and put in bids for contracts where they are invited and welcome," claimed Waldman.
See local government feature, pages 14 and 15.