CCT seen as potential career path cul-de-sac

Many young lawyers are choosing not to join local government organisations because they fear their career path may be cut short by compulsory competitive tendering.

Peter Keith-Lucas, president of the newly merged Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors, says the tendering of council legal services every five years means that many potential local government lawyers fear their career will hit the buffers because costs, not their talents, may determine if they keep their jobs.

"There is certainly evidence; I have to do a number of career talks with law schools and so on and CCT is one of the things that crops up regularly," said Keith-Lucas.

The 46-year-old director of legal and administrative services at the City and County of Swansea, added that local government's inability to attract talented graduates was of deep concern as lawyers and council administrators were essential to the democratic process.

At the Acses conference last month, delegates heard details of both the Conservative government and the Labour Party's plans for CCT.

Shadow Local Government Minister Hillary Armstrong talked of a Labour government redrawing the relationship between Parliament and town halls, and decentralising power to lift decision-making out of Westminster as far as possible.

She attacked CCT as "a clear example of the drive to bland uniformity" and claimed it was "failing to reflect the modern relationships which have been drawn up by forward-thinking councils and forward-looking companies".

In his conference speech, Local Government Minister David Curry examined the role of local government in the next century. "Controlling public spending and public and private sector partnership will be paramount," he said.

Keith-Lucas claimed that Labour's approach to CCT was more consultative and conciliatory than that adopted by the Tories.