Shared services among council partnerships in Suffolk are already well-established but four councils are now taking one step further by setting up a shared legal service.
Babergh District, Forest Heath District, Mid Suffolk District and St Edmundsbury Borough councils have similar requirements when it comes to dealing with legal issues. These include working on planning, property, commercial and contract law, land and lease agreements, prosecutions, agreements with developers, and advising on everyday legal matters. Almost every project has a legal aspect to it, whether it is technical legal advice, understanding options and mitigating risk, or ensuring that the councils always keep within the law. There will always be times when councils need specialist advice from external sources but work done by our own legal teams reduces the spend on external law firms.
Bringing the services together will mean the teams can work collaboratively, sharing both their own individual expertise and the experience gained from working with external advisers. A single team that is resourceful, resilient, innovative and proactively looking to extend its skills to support the new ways that councils need to work in the future will be able to support changing council services better than small teams. In a joint statement the Leaders of Babergh, Forest Heath, Mid Suffolk and St Edmundsbury councils said:
“We are delighted to announce that we have agreed a memorandum of understanding which will move us forward immediately to build this exciting new service.
“All four councils have ambitious strategic plans that focus on providing good, resilient and sustainable services for our local communities. We all face similar challenges around the decline in traditional Government funding and how we bridge that gap through developing new ways of working.
“A strong, skilled legal service that proactively seeks out new knowledge and different ways of working is an essential lynchpin not only for our day-to-day services but also for the income-generating projects that enable us to continue delivering the services which our communities value. This change will ensure we have a legal team that is large enough to be proactive, flexible and able to develop wider in-house expertise. It will be fit for a future where we know the challenges to our work with the communities we serve will increase further in the coming years.”
The new service will be based at the West Suffolk councils’ offices in Bury St Edmunds and Mildenhall, with the use of modern video and teleconferencing facilities reducing the need to travel for meetings.