Trio of London boroughs merge legal services as part of spending squeeze

Three London boroughs have announced their plans to merge back office functions, including legal services, in a move designed to generate £35m of savings by 2014.

Together the three legal departments of Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster employ 122 people, including 70 lawyers, and spend £11m on internal and external matters and counsel fees. But cuts to public funding mean that the councils as a whole need to save £100m over the course of the parliament.

The councils have released a document outlining their plans for combining a host of services that include children’s services, libraries, legal, HR and the chief executive function of two of the councils.

The leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council councillor Stephen Greenhalgh said: “Our taxpayers expect us to squeeze every pound and penny to reduce unnecessary costs. We’re not creating one ‘super council’, we’re creating three slimmer councils with combined resources and expertise.

“Our residents shouldn’t notice the difference except in areas such as adult social care, where there’ll be a marked improvement because we’re able to fully integrate health and social care.”

The Lawyer revealed last year that Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea were mooting a fusion of their legal departments, which are already run by a single legal head – Michael Cogher – with a focus on employment and litigation work (22 March 2010).

Council legal departments

  Westminster Hammersmith Kensington Total
Lawyers 25 23 22 70
Legal Assistants 5 9 5 19
Support Staff 9 12 10 31
Total staff 39 44 37 122
Legal spend (£m) 4.8 3.0 3.0 10.8