Two London councils are to further integrate their legal teams in a bid to save local taxpayers tens of thousand of pounds a year and provide a better service.
Southwark and Lambeth councils are already set to share the cost of procuring barristers which will see them using a panel of approved barristers to cover a range of specialist areas including property and contacts, children and adults and education.
The £10.4million four year inter-borough framework agreement will aim to save each council £100,000 per year in legal fees by securing more competitive rates and economies of scale.
Now, following the success of this arrangement, Southwark Council today announced that it would establish a joint litigation team with Lambeth under the leadership of Southwark’s head of litigation.
Southwark, which spends around £12million a year on legal services, will also establish a joint regulatory and prosecutions team under the leadership of a Lambeth senior regulatory lawyer. A joint pilot property team will also be set up in Southwark. In addition, a pilot business manager shared between both councils will now be made a permanent arrangement under the new legal structure. If these initiatives are successful, the councils will look to imbed the ‘shared service’ objective with each other and offer the joint legal service to other councils.
At the same time, Southwark is committed to delivering £600,000 of savings from 2012 to 2014 through a major internal reorganisation of its legal department.
For its part, Lambeth, which spends approximately £8million a year on legal services, is also reorganising its legal team with a £100,000 savings target for 2012/13. Lambeth has identified the further potential savings by bringing legal services back in-house from external law firms.
Southwark has a larger in-house legal team and can develop the capacity to deliver some of the services which Lambeth needs. Undertaking legal work on behalf of Lambeth should enable Southwark to generate a small amount of revenue to contribute to income targets. It will also allow Lambeth to deliver their savings because it will be cheaper for Southwark to undertake this work on their behalf rather than instructing expensive external solicitors.
Lambeth Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Paul McGlone, said: “Like all councils, we are cutting back office costs to deliver savings for taxpayers across every council department. Lambeth and Southwark councils are working together to set up ‘shared services’ such as Legal where this delivers efficiencies and saves money. This means we can help protect front line services across south London.”
Southwark Council Leader Peter John said in a Southwark cabinet report: “Our legal departments have already developed and implemented a joint framework agreement for the purchasing of barristers services which will provide significant savings.
“However, following significant work our legal teams have agreed that further work can be done to join up the Litigation, Regulatory and Property teams in Southwark and Lambeth, in order to take advantage of the real expertise which exists in those areas across both councils.
“It is my hope that the good work and good practice which we develop in Southwark and Lambeth can be extended to other boroughs in due course, bringing with it even greater savings and efficiencies for the residents of our boroughs.”