London councils abandon tri-borough legal combo

The councils of Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea are pushing ahead with greater ­integration of their legal departments rather than seeking a previously touted three-way combination with Westminster City Council.

Michael Cogher
Michael Cogher

A report submitted this month to cabinets at all three councils confirmed that the two local authorities, which have had a shared director of legal services in Michael Cogher since 2009, will now pursue a bi-borough model until 2013.

The two boroughs will focus on linking up areas including employment and planning law.

During the same period, all three councils will explore partnership models with private practice on a tri-borough basis. The report also states that, from 2013 onwards, councils will need to consider shared adult and children’s legal services, although ­Westminster is tied into a contract until 2013.

Collectively the three councils must save £100m by 2014-15, and the combination of legal teams is part of a wider push to cut costs across a range of services.

The legal link-up is not expected to deliver savings directly in 2012-13 or 2013-14, but it is expected to save £300,000 in 2014-15.

In a statement, Hammersmith & Fulham Council leader Stephen Greenhalgh said: “This is a common sense way of dealing with the big financial pressures facing councils up and down the country.”

Kensington & Chelsea leader Sir Merrick Cockell said: “Everyone knows the financial straits councils find themselves in. To ­protect our services we’ve taken a difficult road, but this report shows we’re making progress and we’re making it happen.”