Avon chief to head specialist practice

Tim Miller

FORMER local authority chief Basil Smith has switched to Bristol-based Veale Wasbrough to head the firm's new local government practice.

Smith's move from Avon County Council to private practice is linked to the re-organisation of public services in the South West.

Avon and the region's six district councils are to be replaced with four unitary authorities, Bristol, Gloucestershire, Bath and north east Somerset, and north west Somerset.

Simon Baker, chair of Veale Wasbrough, says the upheaval will generate a great deal of work.

"The reality is that the county of Avon will have to be re-invented," he says.

Lawyers will be needed to advise on contracts between the new authorities, employment, training and constitutional issues, Baker adds.

Smith joined Avon in 1982 as county solicitor before taking over as chief executive in 1989.

He previously held local authority legal posts at Newcastle, South Shields, South Tyneside, and Tyne & Wear, before joining West Yorkshire as assistant director of administration in 1977.

Smith will head the firm's local government practice which forms half of Veale Wasbrough's restructured public authority unit. Partner Nigel Campbell heads public sector law and procurement.

Baker says that the expansion of the local government side will put the firm in a good position to take advantage of compulsory competitive tendering of white-collar services. But the main reason for the development of the practice is re-organisation.

Baker says that Avon County Council, which is being disbanded, has a budget of u0.5 billion compared to the u6 million sum available for the smaller districts.

"This is a major development as far as we are concerned," he says.

An eleventh hour attempt by the county council to prevent abolition was thrown out by the High Court earlier this month.