SHIRE authorities unaffected by reorganisation may be forced to adhere to a new timetable for the implementation of compulsory competitive tendering if proposals put forward by the Government are accepted.
But the Law Society's Local Government Group claims the move would disrupt plans already in progress and place in-house departments at a disadvantage in the bidding process.
The Government had originally agreed that authorities maintaining the status quo would tender professional services from April 1988, but in his response to a recent parliamentary question environment minister Robert Jones indicated the position could change.
He said councils would be consulted about proposals to allow for a proper amount of preparation.
The Government has said CCT for professional support services - including legal work - will take effect two years after a new authority comes into being.
Jones said: "Any new arrangements, if adopted following consultation, will however ensure that status quo authorities will have at least as much time to prepare for and implement CCT following the decisions on their future, as the two years provided for reorganised authorities following their establishment."
Local Government Group chair Gillian Phillips says planning for CCT has started in shire counties, with legal departments expecting to start bidding from 1 April 1998.
"I think this proposed change is a cause for great concern. If people have been planning against one date, and it is then brought forward by a year for example, it is going to make it extremely difficult to carry the process through as successfully as it deserves," says Phillips.