Dave Daycock: Swansea City and County Council

With Swansea city centre undergoing major regeneration the council’s head of legal Dave Daycock is having to balance the roles of lawyer and manager. Jon Parker reports

Having lost good people both to private practice and the National Assembly for Wales, Swansea City and County Council’s head of legal services and monitoring officer Dave Daycock hit back in January this year by turning to Eversheds partners Stephen Cirrell, who is rivalled only by Malcolm Iley for the title of “Godfather of local government lawyering”, and Judith Barnes.

Charged with stemming the talent flow, Cirrell and Barnes concluded that among other measures, including introducing greater flexibility for legal executives to handle work traditionally handled by solicitors, the council needed to boost senior lawyers’ pay. Eversheds recommended £5,000 pay hikes, but after negotiations with the purse-holders the council agreed on £3,000.

Trowers & Hamlins, meanwhile, advised on the transfer of the city’s housing stock to third-party non-private ownership. Although still subject to a vote by existing tenants, the deal potentially involves a £700m investment in the 14,000 homes over 10 years.

Pinsent Masons helped the council set up a £75m “overarching IT facility” and 10-year IT outsourcing project to consultant Capgemini. Lovells, meanwhile, is helping the council with the ongoing £6m-£10m redevelopment of the city centre.

However, Wales’ second city does not just use the big-hitting firms.

“We try to have a mixed portfolio of City and local firms as often as we can,” says Daycock , adding that he also uses Welsh firms, including Dolmans, John Collins and Morgan Cole.

John Collins handles debt-collection work and ‘right-to-buy’ deals on council houses, while Morgan Cole handles Freedom of Information (FOI) work in conjunction with Swansea’s in-house lawyers. Following the introduction of the FOI act in January 2005, Swansea has received between 600 and 700 FOI requests, Daycock says, which are “a huge drain on resources”.

Dolmans advises on personal injury and litigation work, as well as giving ‘bespoke advice’ to the council on its partnership with the Ospreys rugby and East Swanea football clubs in managing the city’s Liberty Stadium, which opened two years ago. Along with a £500m regeneration project of the city’s waterfront known as the ‘SA1 Project’, which includes a 30-storey skyscraper, the Liberty Stadium is part of Swansea’s bid to attract more tourism. “It’s a happening city,” Daycock enthuses. “We just need to get people to realise that.”

In a sign of changes both in Wales and the Labour party, the two biggest cities in Wales kicked out Labour at the last election, meaning that Swansea has its first non-Labour party administration for 28 years.

Daycock expresses uncertainty over which direction the new Independent, Liberal Democrat and Tory-coalition council will lead the city, but says he “expects a whole new agenda”. This has already included plans for a £35m refurbishment of the city’s leisure centre, unimaginatively known as the ‘Swansea Leisure Centre Project’, which has so far been handled in-house.

Daycock is also working on Lexium, an online law provision being developed with Swansea University. The project aims to provide an internet-based legal network within which lawyers will be able to sell legal advice to each other.

The scheme has the support of the National Assembly for Wales, which, as with the UK Government, is encouraging local authorities to secure economies of scale.

Daycock’s links with academia are personal too. A barrister as well as a solicitor, he has already spent more time in training than most lawyers, has a graduate certificate in education, and in 1992 became a visiting scholar in licensing law at Cambridge University’s Wolfson College.

Although he says that work commitments prevent him from doing as much as he would like, Daycock “likes to keep a hand in on the lecturing”. As well as teaching public law to LLB students at Swansea University, he also gives training to other local authorities on licensing law with a firm named Premier Licensing Training (PLT).

And if that was not enough, he is also taking a masters degree in planning law at Bristol University. “I’m interested in the academic world,” he says modestly.

Daycock is enthusiastic about his role, but like every lawyer-manager, complains about the balance between the two roles.

“I’m certainly never bored,” he says. “My biggest gripe is that I never have time to do all the things I’d like to.”

Dave Daycock
Head of legal services and monitoring officer
Swansea City and County Council

Organisation Swansea City and County Council
Sector Local government
Turnover £500m
Employees 13,500 (including teachers)
Head of legal services and monitoring officer Dave Daycock
Reporting to Chief executive Paul Smith
Legal capability 50 fee-earners, including 23 lawyers
Legal spend (including counsel) £1.2m
Firms used Dolmans, Eversheds, John Collins, Lovells, Morgan Cole, Pinsent Masons, Trowers & Hamlins
Dave Daycock’s CV Education: 1976-79 – Law, University of Aberystwyth
Work history: 1982-87 law tutor, Swansea University; 1987 – law lecturer, Swansea University; 1987 – called to the bar; 1992 – lawyer, Swansea City and County Council (SCCC); 1998 – solicitor to the SCCC; 2005 – head of legal services and monitoring officer, SCCC