Under pressure

The news today that Manchester, Newcastle and Bristol City Councils have all embarked upon ambitious three-year budget-cutting strategies has revealed exactly how much pressure is being placed on each council body to slash its legal spend.

Bristol City Council, for example, which had a net budget of £6.37m in 2012/13, is being tasked with saving £230,000 this year alone as the budget calls for a “decreased spend on external legal support”.

Bristol has already seen the departure of legal head Stephen McNamara, who joined Veale Wasbrough Vizards in December after an in-house legal adviser at the authority, Edward Reynolds, made the same move in July last year. And now the council needs to reduce its spending by £65m over the next three years.

As The Lawyer has reported in recent months, a number of councils have gone down the merger route in response to growing pressure to cut costs. The London Boroughs of Barnet and Harrow, Merton and Richmond upon Thames and Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea are just some of the local authorities that have teamed up with each other to reduce legal spend.

And it’s not just councils that are looking for new ways to slash their bills. Balfour Beatty is on the verge of signing a deal with Pinsent Masons to make it the construction giant’s sole external legal provider in at least some areas in a bid to cut costs.