Two London councils are to merge their legal teams under a joint head of legal services in a bid to cut external legal spend and staff costs.

In a six-month trial, Merton’s head of legal Helen White will also become head of legal at Richmond upon Thames, when Richmond’s current legal head Richard Mellor retires this month.

White said the move is aimed at delivering the government’s target of 40% cost savings. She said reducing the amount spent on external law firms would be a ‘priority’.

‘By sharing expertise, we aim to keep more work in-house, which is a more efficient use of our resources and will allow substantial cost savings,’ she said.

White added that the two council legal departments will also be looking at sharing buildings and reducing headcount.

‘Staffing cuts are a reality and legal services won’t be exempt, but it is too early to predict how many jobs will have to go,’ she said.