Local vs central govt lawyers in showdown

Local vs central govt lawyers in showdownLocal government lawyers are up in arms because they pay more for their practising certificates than central ­government lawyers, who receive a statutory discount.

Birmingham City Council legal chief Mirza Ahmed, who spends £100,000 on his team’s certificates, has written to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) demanding urgent action.

The SRA has pledged a consultation, but said no changes could be made until 2010 at the earliest.

Ahmed, writing on behalf of the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors, stated: “The public interest requires that I take this stand. In today’s harsh ­economic conditions, local authorities cannot afford to be seen as featherbedding the legal profession.”

SRA chief executive Antony Townsend admitted that the current fee structure was inappropriate, but added: “Revision of the fee structure raises numerous complex issues.”

The Law Society secured an amendment to the Solicitors Act in 2007, allowing different charges to be levied for different types of lawyer.

Southwark Council legal head Deborah Collins commented: “It’s unjustifiable that we have to pay full practising certificate fees for our lawyers.”