In a first for local government in the UK, the legal services of Merton, Kingston, Sutton and Richmond Councils will become one legal team serving four boroughs.
The decision to share legal services was given the go-head following agreement from all four councils.
The move is set to save £600,000 between the four councils over the next four years while providing each borough with a substantially increased pool of legal expertise, reducing the need to instruct outside lawyers. Moving the legal team into one location will also mean fewer office overheads and greater efficiency in how the service operates.
Leader of Merton Council Councillor Stephen Alambritis said: “We are always looking at how we can deliver quality services while providing the best value for money for the taxpayer. We are the first to share legal services in this way across four boroughs. The success of Merton and Richmond’s shared legal services since 2011 has proved that joining forces with other boroughs can make a positive difference in providing a quality in-house legal service while making significant financial savings. We are looking forward to working with our colleagues in Richmond, Kingston and Sutton and to making the legal services for all four boroughs resilient and robust.”
Deputy Leader of Richmond Council and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources Councillor Geoffrey Samuel said: “Richmond and Merton established a shared legal service in September 2011 which has since proved a success, achieving savings of between 16 – 20 per cent and a high percentage of internal customers surveyed reporting that service quality has improved.
“Additionally, the service has streamlined processes, increased transparency and reduced external legal costs. We’d also expect any transition process and future partnership would continue to improve the effective provision of legal advice and support, improve customer satisfaction and client care.”
Leader of Kingston Council Councillor Derek Osbourne, said: “Councils continue to face significant financial challenges and sharing support service functions is an effective way of reducing costs whilst at the same time improving services. Feasibility studies showed that sharing legal services with Merton, Sutton and Richmond would not only save money but would also improve resilience, flexibility and responsiveness. The new service will bring together legal professionals from the four boroughs in an environment where they can share best practice and expertise. The aim is to have the new service operational by 1 October 2013 which will involve a considerable amount of work, including detailed consultation with staff affected by the change.”
Deputy Leader of Sutton Council, Councillor Colin Hall, said: “Sutton Council is always looking for ways to provide improved services at reduced costs. This scheme, which builds on our previous experience of sharing services, will allow us to continue that record.”