The UK’s first four-borough shared legal service opened its doors today, as the legal services of Merton, Kingston, Sutton and Richmond Councils join together to become the South London Legal Partnership.
Hosted by Merton Council, the South London Legal Partnership builds on the existing partnership between Merton and Richmond Councils and will expand to provide a legal service for all four boroughs, following a decision taken by each council in February this year.
The new shared service 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 and so reducing the need to instruct outside lawyers.
The South London Legal Partnership will be based in Merton, meaning fewer office overheads and greater efficiency in how the service operates across the four boroughs.
Paul Evans, joint monitoring officer for Merton and Richmond Councils, will head up the South London Legal Partnership team. Sutton and Kingston Councils will retain their own monitoring officer and corporate lawyer role.
Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis said: “The success of the Merton and Richmond shared legal service since 2011, including being shortlisted for the MJ Legal Services Award this year, has already 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. Bringing together the legal expertise of the four boroughs’ legal teams to create the South London Legal Partnership means we can provide an even better and cost efficient service. Great news for the council tax payers of south London.”
Leader of Kingston Council, Councillor Liz Green said: “This groundbreaking new arrangement gives us access to a strong pool of lawyers, almost four times bigger than we have now. We are stronger together and by sharing our professional expertise we will have an even more efficient and cost-effective service.”
Deputy Leader of Richmond Council, Councillor Geoffrey Samuel, said: “This is a very exciting development. Since 2011 the two-borough legal service has been a great success and I am sure that the four-borough version will be even better. As with all our improvements in recent years, this does two things at once – it saves money and improves our service.”
Leader of Sutton Council, Councillor Ruth Dombey said: “Like all local authorities, government cuts mean we need to be innovative in the way we work.
“Establishing a shared legal service like this makes sense, not least in providing value for money for Sutton’s council tax payers.
“The new arrangements mean duplication is reduced, costs are cut and we benefit from greater legal expertise”.