QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
LEEDS DISTRICT REGISTRY
1 Oxford Row
Leeds. LS1 3BG
B e f o r e :
| PARKER RHODES HICKMOTTS SOLICITORS
|- and -
|THE LEGAL SERVICES COMMISSION
Miss Fiona Scolding (instructed by Legal Services Commission) for the Defendant
Hearing date: 9th May 2011
Crown Copyright ©
The Hon. Mr. Justice McCombe:
(B) The Tendering Process and Chronolgy
You must prepare a single organisational response per ITT and you must warrant that each office from which you intend to deliver Immigration Services meets the Essential Criteria. This will include uploading the Immigration Supervisor Self Declaration Form where you have a Supervisor(s) in post.
You must respond to the selection Criteria confirming how each of your Offices meets each of the Selection Criteria in a particular Access Point details provided for each Office will constitute an 'Individual Bid'). "
Clause 9.2 went on to say:
"You must confirm on the Tender Information Form and again at the Selection Criteria stage how many Matter Starts you are bidding to deliver from each Office in a particular Access Point.
For each Individual Bid you must bid for at least the minimum Matter Starts stated in the Essential Criteria.
For each Individual Bid you should not bid for more than the maximum Matter Starts available for the Access Point."
There then followed an important limit on the bid that applicants could submit; it was in these terms:
"You should not bid for more than the maximum capacity, set at 150 Matter Starts per full time equivalent staff member delivering Immigration Services (full time equivalent equates to at least 35 hours per week).
You do not need to have employed all Caseworkers and Supervisors by the date you submit your response to the ITT but you must have recruited all staff 8 weeks before the contract date."
Clause 9.22 and 9.33 stated:
"9.22 The information given in Section 4 should relate to the hours and the roles of staff delivering work at that particular Office. For example, if a FTE member of staff will work half their time in one Office and half in another, Applicants should enter their details in the forms for each Office, giving their time as 17.5 hours (half a full FTE week of at least 35 hours) in both cases."
"9.33 The Selection Criteria apply at individual office level and Applicant Organisations will need to respond as to how each individual Office meets the criteria (the Individual Bid).
"We will undertake a verification exercise against all Applicant Organisations awarded Matter Starts 8 weeks before the start of the contract to ensure that information provided in tenders remains current. We will adjust our offer if the actual staffing levels do not correspond with the capacity test."
Clause 10.11 said this;
"Selection Criteria will be considered against each Individual Bid at Access Point level. This means that Individual Bids in an Access Point from Offices from the same organisation will be considered separately and are in competition with each other. For the avoidance of doubt, Individual scores from individual Offices within the same organisation will not be added together or aggregated."
"Preference will be given to Applicant Organisations who currently employ at least one case worker who is accredited to IAAS Level 3 (advanced Caseworker) or has received acknowledgement from the Law Society of receipt of an application to become accredited at this level.
Marked out of 5
Points will be awarded to an Individual Bid as follows:
The Applicant Organisation currently employs a Caseworker who is accredited to IAAS Level 3 (5 points)
The Applicant Organisation currently employs a Caseworker who has received acknowledgement from the Law Society of receipt of an application to become accredited at IAAS Level 3 (1 point)
The Applicant Organisation does not employ an IAAS Level 3 accredited caseworker (0 points)"
"6. When the tender information was released on 30th November 2009, I was surprised to see that marks were awarded for having a Level 3 caseworker employed and that one mark was awarded for making an application to the Law Society for Level 3 accreditation. Although I was somewhat surprised, my initial reaction was that so few people were accredited at level 3, it would not have a bearing on the outcome of the tender. I knew that no practitioners in South Yorkshire or our procurement area were accredited at Level 3 and I therefore believed that our bid would not be affected by this.
7. I was also aware that the process for applying for Level 3 accreditation is quite lengthy and time consuming. It is not like other levels of accreditation and an applicant has to submit a detailed portfolio of material showing commitment and experience in this area of law. I was of the view that it would clearly not be possible for an application to be submitted and approved by the Law Society prior to the tender deadline of 28th January 2010 so I knew there was no way providers could achieve top marks in the tender unless they already had a level 3 caseworker position.
8. With regard to the point which was awarded for simply making an application, I could not understand why this was being used as a criteria. It seems bizarre as it was clearly not a way to demonstrate quality provision of service. I believed that all providers would view this criteria in the same was [sic: "way"] as I did – irrational and unnecessary. For that reason, I made the decision not to apply for Level 3 at that time.
9. I had no idea that larger organisations would be able to rely on having a Level 3 caseworker employed in any office in the country to improve their bid in our area. Had I known that, it would have been obvious that this would affect our bid. It was not possible to rely on having a Supervisor employed in a different office, many miles from the office tendering for the work in our region, therefore I would never have imagined that the position with Level 3 caseworkers would be any different. The information in the Tender Information Form certainly seemed to suggest that each individual office would be judged separately."
(C) The Grounds of Challenge in more detail
"We confirm that Parker Rhodes Hickmotts Solicitors are ready to deliver the services awarded from 14 October 2010."
It was not suggested that the verification exercise being undertaken was inadequate. The other responses were in broadly similar terms.
"verify …To confirm the truth of; to inquire into the truth of, to authenticate, to fulfil; (Law) to affirm under oath, to append and affidavit to (pleadings)…".
None of these helps us directly to determine the sense in which the word "verification" is being used in the IFA and to identify what steps are envisaged or, more importantly, prescribed.