Awards preview: public sector team of the year

On 22 June, 1400 people will crowd into the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane for the most eagerly-awaited event of the year. With only one week to go, The Lawyer brings you a sneak preview of the shortlisted individuals and teams


City of Bradford Metropolitan Council

The Bradford legal team is known locally for its innovative and rigorous approach. The team has forged ahead with a series of partnerships with the private sector, all of which have required flexible and progressive thinking. The team is working on the outsourcing of the council’s £1bn property portfolio and has supported the creation of the first Mental Health and Learning Disability Trust, which required the transfer of 800 staff. The team has also advised on 10-year outsourcing projects for the delivery of IT services and Local Education Authority support functions.

The Hutton Inquiry team: James Dingemans QC and Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance’s head of public law Michael Smyth was official solicitor to the Hutton Inquiry and James Dingemans QC of 3 Hare Court was its counsel. Dingemans was a little-known personal injury specialist commanding as little as £150 an hour prior to his appearance in Court 73 of the High Court. His performance for the inquiry team outshone others in the court who were more senior barristers. The perception by some of a whitewash that absolved the Government of blame can in no way be attributed to the thoroughness of a solid and professional team. The trauma that it induced at the BBC perhaps could be.

Inland Revenue

By this time next year, after the Customs & Excise merger, the Inland Revenue department will be part of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. It will add a whole new set of skills to its repertoire. The current team has a top-quality bunch of professionals, many of whom were recruited from the upper echelons of private practice. In addition to tax and the litigation that relates to it, the team also has a legislation group that deals with changes to tax laws, a prosecution group, a bankruptcy practice and a top-quality employment team. Only property and large-scale project work is outsourced, which is testament to a superb team.

Lancashire County Council

The Lancashire County Council legal team has been praised for bringing a realistic, commercial outlook to the public sector. The number of PFI projects and public-private partnerships that the team has had to deal with makes such an attitude essential. The headline deal is a waste management PFI deal worth £75m, the largest of its kind in the country. It has also advised on a £100m restructuring of the housing market. The council has set up a joint venture to replace the North West Tourist Board, is working on the economic regeneration of Lancashire and is involved in a £200m investment in the Building Schools for the Future project.

Southwark Council

The legal team at Southwark Council made history this year after the contractor running education in the borough announced that it wanted to break its five-year £100m contract at short notice. Only a handful of councils have outsourced education, and none have had to deal with a contractor claiming that the contract was just not viable. Despite a mountain of paperwork, the team achieved a seamless transfer to a new contractor in just four months. The Southwark team is also piloting a new arbitration system for council tenants in dispute with the council, which could hear more than 500 cases a year.

West Sussex County Council

The West Sussex team has had three big projects to deal with this year: a £300m PFI schools management contract, a waste recycling PFI contract and a care homes contract. The schools management deal was particularly complex, coming at a time when central Government was changing the standard PFI guidelines. There was a large leisure element to the project, which needed intense negotiations with neighbour Crawley Borough Council. Some land had to be transferred from Crawley to West Sussex as part of the deal, and the West Sussex team, assisted by Nabarro Nathanson, had to make sure that both councils’ positions were being protected.