AMA steps up threat of action over CCT plans

LOCAL government lawyers have endorsed council threats to take legal action against the Government if it goes ahead with plans to extend compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) to white collar work.

The initiative is being led by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities (AMA) with the support of the Association of District Councils and the Association of County Councils.

AMA members met with counsel last Thursday to discuss whether the six-week consultation period for the proposals is adequate, and whether the proposal to reduce the tendering timetable to 12 months is reasonable in law.

The proposals for CCT reforms caused a furore among lawyers and other white collar workers when they were announced by Under Secretary of State for the Environment Sir Paul Beresford last month.

A consultation document said councils had exposed less work to competition than had been expected and proposed that more work be farmed out to the private firms.

The associations have already written in protest to Environment Secretary John Gummer saying they believe it is too early to judge how CCT is working.

They also claim the six-week consultation period is not long enough to reconsider CCT regulations, which originally took three years to produce, and that 12 months is a "wholly inadequate" timescale for the implementation of the proposed changes.

Peter Urwin, chair of the Law Society's local government group, said: "Legal action seems to be a sensible course of action at this stage due to the difficulties that have been expressed about the consultation paper."

He added that the Law Society was willing to help the Government to redefine its proposals if necessary.

AMA chair Sir Jeremy Beecham said: "It is difficult to believe that the Government is interested in genuine consultation. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that it will not be satisfied until local authorities have put all their white collar work out to the private sector."

South Lanarkshire Council announced it would abandon court action against the Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth after Parliament made assurances that CCT would not be introduced in Scotland in January 1997. The council was appealing against a decision to put forward the date for CCT by six months.