Good result for Legal Services in Best Value review

Merton Council’s Legal Services and Land Charges team has become the first department in the council to undergo a Best Value inspection- and the verdict is extremely positive.

The inspectors rated the legal section as providing a “Fair, One Star Service that is likely to improve” and said the service displayed many positive features.

The section is part of the Chief Executive’s department advises and represents the council in legal matters and deals with licensing, property, planning, litigation, housing, contracts, employment and highways issues.

It also acts as a support for members of staff involved in legal proceedings, recovery of debts, child protection cases and cases of anti social behaviour. Land searches are also carried out for people trying to buy property in the borough.

The week long inspection was carried out in March and involved Best Value inspectors interviewing and shadowing staff to get a sense of how the legal team works and the quality of the services they provide. They also spoke to external users of the service.

The Best Value inspectors highlighted litigation, planning, licensing, Employment Tribunals and contracts as areas where the service performs particularly well. They also mentioned the contribution the team made to Human Rights, Licensing White Paper and Merton’s response to the Macpherson Report.

Areas the inspectors would like to see attention given to include the priority some services are given and the need to provide data and management systems. However, action is already taking place to improve these areas and that is one of the reasons why the inspectors have graded Merton as “likely to improve”

Cabinet Member for Financial Services, Councillor Geraldine Stanford, said: “Every department and every service provided by Merton Council has to go through a Best Value Inspection within the next five years. It is a rolling cycle and designed to encourage continuous improvement.

“Legal Services has been the first and the results are very positive. We now have a greater practical understanding of the processes involved in Best Value inspections and we can apply this knowledge to future reviews.

“We are very pleased with the Inspection team’s verdict about our Legal Services department.

“We have taken on board its comments and we are confident that the areas that do need slight attention can be improved. In many cases the improvement process been has all ready begun and in some areas improvements were being made