Remote court hearings and client meetings, as well as more instructions, have helped an alternative business structure set up by local authorities more than treble profits.
Full accounts filed by LGSS Law Ltd at Companies House last week show that in the year ended 31 March 2021, pre-tax profit was £909,531 compared with £291,366 the previous year, on turnover up from £8,475,001 to £9,683,913.
LGSS director Debbie Carter-Hughes says in the report: ‘Local authorities have found themselves on the frontline when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and this has led to an increase in instructions from both shareholders and external clients. This has seen the firm increase the number of staff it employs, review its working practices and, as a result return increased turnover and a greater profit for 2020/21.
‘The introduction of remote court hearings and client meetings has seen the firm able to undertake more work in-house and also expand the external clients that it undertakes work for due to geographic location being less of a constraint. The firm expects to continue to develop its client base through 2021/22 and further develop its marketing strategy.’
LGSS Law, which describes itself as one of the first ‘social enterprise’ law firms, was set up in 2015 and is wholly owned by Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire county councils. Central Bedfordshire Council joined as an owner the following year.
The latest report states that LGSS Law benefited from loan facilities with the three councils. A total of £1,050,000 - the full amount - has been drawn down.
While the firm continues to have five directors, the number of administrative staff has increased by eight, to 145. Aggregate remuneration has risen but directors’ remuneration has fallen from £233,774 in 2020 to £156,955 in 2021. Remuneration for the highest-paid director has not been provided because total directors’ remuneration was less than £200,000.
LGSS said 2020/21 had been 'challenging' due to Covid-19. Staff had to quickly move to full-time remote working, planning and property work fell while childcare and adult work increased. ‘Remote working and the subject-matter being dealt with led to concerns about how to support the mental health, wellbeing and morale of staff. All of these changes in a relatively short timeframe brought significant risk and uncertainty and this will remain a concern as government restrictions are eased,’ the report says.
In April this year, Northamptonshire County Council split into two unitary bodies - West Northamptonshire and North Northamptonshire - which have evenly split Northamptonshire’s shareholding in LGSS Law. The county council’s children services function moved to the newly created Northamptonshire Children’s Trust. LGSS said the changes led to uncertainty for the firm during the 2020/21 financial year but it ‘is pleased to have secured work with all three organisations going forward’.