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Cabinet Office to procure all legal services for central government

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The Cabinet Office is to run the procurement of legal services for the whole of Whitehall, Local Government Lawyer can reveal.

The move – confirmed by a Cabinet Office spokeswoman – followed the announcement earlier this month by ministers that nine categories of common goods and services would be procured centrally in this way.

The spokeswoman said there would have to be frameworks for all the categories, which include professional services, energy, office solutions and travel.

The new arrangements – which will also see negotiations and legal disputes with strategic suppliers channelled through the Cabinet Office with a view to harnessing bulk purchasing and negotiating power – are expected to be in place by October 2011.

“The central procurement strategy has been devised by the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) in the Cabinet Office and it will be owned by the Cabinet Office,” the spokeswoman said.

The timings of any procurement exercises are not yet available, she added.

The Cabinet Office announcement comes a few months after Buying Solutions – an executive agency of the Office of Government Commerce, which is now part of the ERG – confirmed that it was reviewing the legal services framework agreements it developed jointly with the Treasury Solicitor’s Department and launched in 2007.

The Buying Solutions agreements covered eight discrete service lots: IT, telecoms and e-commerce; property and estates; construction; employment and pensions; corporate and finance; intellectual property; full commercial services; and major projects. These arrangements expire on 30 June 2011.

The central procurement of the nine categories of common goods and services was part of a package of controls on government spending unveiled by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

These include a Major Projects Authority to oversee all large-scale projects funded and delivered by central government, controls over government property commitments and a restriction on advertising and marketing to “essential” expenditure.

Philip Hoult