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Southwark Council is to radically overhaul how it uses the bar by teaming up with Lambeth Council to create a chambers panel.
The neighbouring London authorities have agreed a four-year deal that will see them share the cost of instructed counsel.
Southwark has budgeted to spend £1.5m on barrister instructions over the next financial year, with Lambeth spending £1m.
Southwark aims to reduce its spend by £55,000 by the 2010-11 year-end, with further savings of £100,000 thereafter.
A report issued by Southwark in June stated: “The option of a framework developed in partnership with another authority was based on securing maximum savings by offering barristers’ chambers the opportunity to bid on the basis of potentially receiving greater volumes of work.”
Under the new agreed framework there will be four panels, each made up of between five and 10 sets and covering four specialist areas: planning, property and contracts; housing litigation; children and adults; and general litigation and employment.
Proposals are also being discussed about whether the framework should include provisions for securing discounted rates from sets that receive a certain level of work.
In the long term the local authorities intend to open the panel to other councils, which will be charged a fee for access.
Southwark head of legal Doreen Forrester-Brown said: “We’re pleased to engage in this project with Lambeth Council as a shared service in order to achieve greater efficiency and drive down the cost of legal spend in both boroughs.”
The authorities expect to have the panels in place by the end of January 2011.