Barnsley deputy takes charge at Kirklees

Nicole Maley reports

BARNSLEY Council's deputy borough secretary, John Emms, has resigned to take up a promotion as solicitor to the council at Kirklees.

Emms, who has worked with the council since 1975, takes over from Michael Vause on 28 November.

In a return to full-time legal duties he will control a solicitor's department staffed by almost 40 fee-earners.The position is a departure from the previous administrative role occupied by Emms, who officially took over as deputy borough secretary at Barnsley a year ago.

"This is a purely legal function," says Emms. "My principal role is to be the corporate legal adviser while still heading the legal service to Kirklees.

"One of the biggest differences is the political one – Kirklees is hung at the moment whereas Barnsley has always been Labour-controlled.

"The political background is so different that working in Kirklees will present a whole new way of operating.

"In a hung authority you have to be very much more aware of the roles of the different political groups and, in particular, it's much more important to ensure that all the leaders of those groups are briefed on the various issues that are around.

"You can never be quite as certain about what decision is going to come out at the end of the voting process, which you can be when there is strong political control from one party."

A member of the national executive of the Law Society's Local Government Group, Emms encourages prospective trainees to consider a career in local government.

"There tends to be quite a bit of concern about compulsory competitive tendering (CCT), but my own advice is that the in-house lawyer is the best person to do the work for a local authority because they know the background," says Emms.

"You're not just brought in to deal with a particular legal issue, you know what is going on elsewhere and the context in which you're working.

"I think local authority is an excellent field to work in. You get a very broad experience of work, a lot of which is useful in private practice."