Five Councils signal ground-breaking agreement

Published on Friday, 12 August 2011 15:30
Posted by Scott Buckler

A ground-breaking agreement to work together to provide legal services has been signed by the Leaders and Chief Executives of the five West Yorkshire councils

 

The WYLAW project is expected to save around £1.6 million a year across the authorities in cost savings. It will see Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield councils sharing expertise and resources between their respective legal teams more in the future.

A Memorandum of Understanding, signed at City Hall, Bradford, commits the five organisations to work together to maintain and raise the standard of legal support at a time of significant change and reductions in budget, and ensure that the authorities operate lawfully, the vulnerable and disadvantaged are protected and authorities are able to support economic growth and regeneration.

This will be done by working in partnership to:

maximise resources and reduce legal spend
share knowledge, data and performance information
provide an electronic hub to share specific information that is of use and interest to all the councils
identify and promote best practice across the sector
share work plans to avoid overlap and duplication of effort
undertake joint procurement of external legal support
reduce the number of locums and agency staff
recruit on new terms and conditions that will enable staff to carry out work across the authorities.

There will not be any staff reductions as a result of the agreement.

Local authorities’ in-house legal teams provide advice on governance and decision-making to councillors and officers and deal with a range of criminal and civil matters. These include elections, major projects, licensing, prosecutions, personal injury claims, employment and property matters, highways, planning, education, housing and environmental health. It ranges from taking children into care to completing a PFI (private finance initiative) contract.

WYLAW is part of a collaborative working programme set up through the Association of West Yorkshire Authorities (AWYA), which is currently also looking at how the councils could work together jointly on regulatory services (environmental services, licensing, building and planning control, trading standards); human resources; and the procurement of children's external placements.

Cllr Ian Greenwood, Leader of Bradford Council, said: “The aim of this agreement is to work together to provide effective legal support to the five authorities at a lower overall cost. It will help to reduce costs to Bradford council tax payers and contribute to the savings required in the council, in the context of public sector funding cuts.

“We are always looking to see whether our work with other councils and organisations could be extended to improve services and make efficiencies."

Cllr Janet Battye, Leader of Calderdale Council, said: "We recognise that as a local authority we need to spend public money wisely. Our residents try to balance their household bills by looking closely at how and where they spend their money, changing suppliers, shopping around and looking for the best deal. Calderdale Council needs to do the same.

“We wanted to look more closely at where we could sensibly share services and collaborate more closely with other councils in West Yorkshire and this is one area in which we can build on the working relationships that we already have. I’m really pleased to see this developing.”

Cllr Mehboob Khan, Leader of Kirklees Council and chairman of the AWYA, said: “With the financial situation government has placed us in we have to be innovative and look at any way possible we can improve our service while being mindful of the costs. Making efficiencies is important, but I am committed to doing that in the context of maintaining high levels of service, and this is one way we can achieve that.”

Cllr Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds Council, said: “I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to negotiate this intelligent way of sharing vital services in a way that saves a considerable amount of money with no loss to jobs.

“This is particularly important at a time when we have enormous pressure on still delivering the best to our citizens in the face of huge reductions to our budgets.  We will continue to work with our colleagues across West Yorkshire to examine further ways to make the most of our limited resources.”

Cllr Peter Box, Leader of Wakefield Council, said:  “This is an excellent opportunity for West Yorkshire councils to pool their considerable experience and expertise in dealing with often complex legal issues. Each of us has strengths that will benefit the others and by working together – rather than buying in from outside – we will save money and improve our services. I welcome this Memorandum of Understanding.

 

Source: Leeds CC

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