Local authority bodies moot merger as Law Society reviews grant

Solicitors in Local Government (SLG), the professional body representing the 4,000 local government lawyers in England and Wales, is proposing to merge with The Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors (ACSeS) in a bid to provide a ‘single voice’ on local authority legal issues.

The proposals, which will be put to SLG members at an event later this month, come as The Law Society moves to terminate the Recognised Groups Agreement (RGA), which is the main source of SLG’s funding.

If it is to retain its funding, which will cease from 1 March next year, SLG and various other groups currently funded by the RGA will be expected to move in-house and become a division of The Law Society.

“The Law Society recognises the importance of supporting its members in their daily professional lives and aims to facilitate this even further with the launch of a series of new divisions, which will serve as communities for members based on demographic,” explained a spokesperson for The Law Society. “They’re a development of the previous model of recognised groups, which were external entities that the society grant funded. These groups acted as the representative voice of their demographic sector and delivered services as well as CPD training events.”

The merger between SLG and ACSeS would create a single organisation, Lawyers in Local Government (LLG), to represent law and governance officers working for local authorities. If the tie-up goes ahead the new group will then have to decide if it wants to become a division of The Law Society or become an external body funded by membership fees.

According to a spokesperson at The Law Society, the new divisions are not about cost cutting but about giving members direct engagement to their professional body.

“The new divisions enable The Law Society to invest directly in supporting in-house and local government members rather than funding external bodies to do this,” the spokesperson said. “The new system will reduce the amount of administration costs, so that resources are focused directly on engaging with and serving members.”

A member of SLG told The Lawyer: “The merger is likely to go ahead. It makes sense to have one voice in local government, but some are concerned that becoming a division with The Law Society will mean we use lose our autonomy. But then there’s controversy over potential membership fees and, if we’re outside of the division, if we’ll have less of a voice at the table. It would be a shame to break away [from The Law Society] but it’s important to keep our autonomy.”