LGA official aims to raise profile of in-house lawyers

Chris Fogarty reports

Proving the worth of local government solicitors is a priority for John Rees, who has been appointed Local Government Association (LGA) assistant director, legal and member services.

Rees, who since 1984 has been legal and parliamentary secretary for the Association of District Councils, will take up his new role when the three bodies representing local government authorities in England and Wales merge on 1 April.

The former Watford (1981 to 1984) and Hillingdon (1976 to 1981) Borough Councils solicitor, said that while councils and the legal community appreciated the work and necessity of council lawyers, their efforts had not had an impact on the world at large or Department of the Environment ministers.

Rees will be trying to convince the Government that in-house council lawyers are essential. "If you are going to have a good council you need a good legal department as well," he said. "There is a specialisation that local authorities operate in that is not found outside local authorities very much."

The LGA's initial hurdle is its own budget, with savings of £1.1m needed to avoid a shortfall of funds in its first year. Rees said the council faced high set-up costs but was confident that it would prove a financially sound and effective voice for local government concerns.