Two south-eastern county councils announced today that they are to merge their legal services in the latest cross-border local government tie-up aimed at cutting costs and generating income. 

East Sussex County Council and Surrey County Council said they have been given the go ahead to create a single legal service. The announcement suggests that the new shared service will be competing for work from other public sector bodies. 

Ann Charlton, director of legal and democratic services at Surrey County Council, said the move put the legal team ‘in an even better position to work with a wider range of public service partners’. The 130-strong legal team will be based at the two existing sites in Lewes and Kingston on Thames.

Philip Baker (pictured), assistant chief executive at East Sussex Council, said the combined team would build a stronger service 'that enables both authorities to help reduce cost across the public sector, helping councils to protect frontline services'.

The tie-up follows last month's announcement that two of East Sussex's mid-tier local authorities, Eastbourne borough council and Lewes district council, were combining legal services. The combined venture will provide a shared legal service to the councils and potentially outside organisations. 

It suggests that the pace of moves towards shared legal services, widely expected following swingeing cuts to local government budgets, is gathering pace.