Unified Durham County Council drops Kent model

Durham County Council puts its search for a new general counsel on hold.

Durham County Council has rejected mimicking Kent County Council’s ­’private practice’ model for its in-house legal team after putting its search for a new general counsel on hold.

Local councils around Durham are due to merge into a single authority in April, with council chiefs interviewing candidates for the top legal post since the end of last year.

One of the proposals put forward was to use the newly merged, 30-strong team to sell legal services to external clients, a model pioneered by Kent legal head Geoff Wild.

But the council has not appointed any of the candidates and has yet to restart the recruitment process.
Lincolnshire County Council and the new ­Cornish Unitary Authority have both followed the Kent model, whereby in-housers generate income by working for outside clients.

Durham declined to ­comment on its plans for the legal department, but a spokesman said: “The ­county council’s corporate management team is considering advertising a range of unfilled head-of-service posts, and this particular legal post is part of their discussions, which are expected to be concluded shortly.”

Durham legal chief Linda Walker is heading the legal department until the post is filled.

The 16-strong legal team is set to double in size when it is joined by lawyers from the councils of Chester-le-Street, Derwentside,Easington, Sedgefield, Teesdale, Wear Valley and Durham City in April.