Four councils join forces to create new legal service

Topics: In-house,Local Government

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Four south-east councils are hoping to save £1m within the next three years after announcing plans to share their legal services.

Orbis Public Law, which starts next month, will provide legal services to Surrey County Council, Brighton and Hove City Council, and East and West Sussex county councils.

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The Gazette understands there are no plans to restructure or change the staffing levels at present.

Councillor David Elkin, lead member for resources at East Sussex County Council, said the new single service would ‘allow us to tap into the wider pool of staff members with specialist expertise that comes from an expanded team.’

According to an East Sussex County Council report in January, the combined workforce will be an estimated 230 staff including 130 solicitors.

Elkin said: ‘By creating what is believed to be one of the biggest legal operations in local government, we can achieve greater resilience, reduce cost and deliver savings through economies of scale, avoidance of duplication and income generation.’

The councils will also develop a business case to create a jointly owned alternative business structure, the Gazette has learned. 

The announcement of Orbis Public Law comes a month after details emerged about the expansion of HB Public Law, which comprises the merged legal teams of Harrow and Barnet councils.

HB Public Law was granted an alternative business structure licence in 2014. It took over the legal services of the London Borough of Hounslow and entered into a shared services agreement with Aylesbury Vale District Council the following year.

A report prepared for Harrow Council’s cabinet last month detailed plans for Buckinghamshire County Council to delegate its legal function to HB Public Law for three years.

Meanwhile, Kent County Council announced this week that its cabinet had approved plans to develop an ABS on its own rather than set up a joint venture with a commercial partner.

The council will apply for an ABS licence by the end of April. The new company will start trading as an ABS in January 2017.

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