Aug 08 2012

Harrow and Barnet to Merge Legal Services

In an innovative move to reduce costs and increase in-house expertise, Harrow and Barnet Councils will merge their in-house teams of lawyers from September 3, 2012.

The two north London councils will launch the shared legal practice following approval by their respective cabinets in April. Bringing the lawyers together in Harrow will give both councils a greater depth and range of in-house legal expertise so that less money is spent hiring external lawyers.

Other savings will be achieved through reduced overheads such as case management systems, law libraries and office space. The Councils expect the initiative to meet rising demand for legal services whilst delivering combined savings of an estimated £4.4m over the next five years.

Harrow Council Portfolio Holder for Performance, Customer Services & Corporate Services, Cllr Graham Henson, said: “To protect the front-line services our residents rely on, we are continually looking at options to reduce our back office costs and find savings that have no impact on residents. By linking our legal services with Barnet in an innovative partnership we will be able to deliver savings whilst increasing the range of legal expertise both councils can provide. It is an excellent example of how both councils are working together to manage the difficult situation we face.”

Michael Lockwood, Chief Executive of Harrow Council, said: “We are looking forward to working with colleagues from Barnet Council in a move that will deliver a better legal service which is more cost effective. During this very difficult financial climate it is vital that local councils do their best to deliver value for money while protecting front-line services.”

Nick Walkley, Chief Executive of Barnet Council, added: “This innovative move will bring real benefits to both councils, not only financially but through sharing our expertise and examples of best practice.”

For the opposition Conservative Group, shadow Performance and Transformation portfolio holder Cllr. Paul Osborn said: “While in principle sharing services with other councils is a sensible way of making savings, there are clearly some problems that will need addressing. This project has already been delayed by many months, and mistakes have left Barnet needing to take decisions again because of legal officers from Harrow incorrectly interpreting
Barnet’s rules and procedures.

Thankfully, it was possible to correct these errors, but if mistakes are being made in Barnet they could also be made in Harrow and could be costly.”


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