The Government Legal Department (GLD) has admitted in its latest business plan that it is at risk of not being able to demonstrate its added value as a legal service to Whitehall.
GLD comprises nearly 2,800 staff, including 2,100 solicitors and barristers, who provide a legal service to the majority of central government departments. Its work includes advising government on policy, preparing primary legislation and drafting secondary legislation.
However, in its 2021/22 business plan, published last week, GLD said its primary risk is ‘we cannot demonstrate the added value that GLD brings as a legal service for the benefit of government’.
The report lists eight particular concerns.
On technology, the GLD says it does not make the most effective tools consistently available to staff to deliver the required standards of service to clients.
‘People’ risks comprise lack of diversity at leadership level and not being able to attract, recruit and retain diverse people to deliver the legal services required by clients.
Outlining steps to manage the risks, the business plan states that the GLD has developed a diversity and inclusion action plan to ensure diverse recruitment. Recruitment and promotion processes have been reviewed and updated to create a diverse leadership cadre. On IT, a digital and technology strategy has been developed.
Questions submitted to GLD chiefs at an all-staff meeting in July revealed discontent over a wide range of matters, including pay, morale and IT.
The business plan states that negotiations took place with Cabinet Office and HM Treasury on GLD’s pay business case, which was designed to reduce the differential between GLD pay and wider public sector median pay, and introduce capability-based career progression for lawyers through in-grade capability levels.
‘Regrettably, the business case was unsuccessful, and we are now undertaking another review of pay and reward to inform options for the future, alongside considering other options for improved career development and progression for all of our staff,’ the business plan says.
A GLD spokesperson told the Gazette: 'The Government Legal Department plays a pivotal role in helping the government deliver its priorities and improving the lives of citizens every day. There is no question as to the quality and value it brings to government as shown by the fact that 96% of its clients rated its service as excellent or good in its latest survey. But of course we are always looking to ensure that we sustain this high standard and closely monitor this and our organisational risks.'