VOLUNTARILY outsourced legal work may have to be included in compulsory tenders if the Government goes ahead with plans to force the pace of local government privatisation.

Local government lawyers have voiced concern about proposals to speed up compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) of legal work after suggestions that the "credit" system should be abolished.

Under current arrangements, councils can include work voluntarily farmed out to private law firms as part of the 45 per cent of council work that must be subject to CCT.

If this system is abolished, much more work will have to be tendered out.

Last Friday, members of the Law Society's local government committee met to consider their response to the proposals unveiled last month.

Peter Urwin, chair of the Law Society's local government group, said the change would probably force his council, Northumberland County Council, to undertake CCT. Under the current system, he said the council's voluntary farming out of work met CCT requirements.

Meanwhile, some private law firms are gearing up for a boost in the number of contracts up for grabs under CCT.

Kent firm Judge & Priestly, which has won contracts from Bromley and Wandsworth, welcomes the proposals.

Partner Steve Taylor said he expected councils would have to subject greater slices of their more lucrative work, traditionally farmed out voluntarily, to CCT. "We are in a good position to take advantage of that," he said.

But he added that firms that specialised in handling ad hoc work stood to lose out.