London Boroughs Legal Alliance grows from cuts

Local authorities’ legal teams band together for safety as public sector cutbacks start to bite

Hugh Peart
Hugh Peart

The London Boroughs Legal Alliance (LBLA) is gearing up for rapid expansion as local authorities look to slash their legal spends in response to the biggest public sector cuts in a generation.

The LBLA has already doubled its membership to 10 since it was established last year. Current member authorities include Camden, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, ­Hounslow, Islington and Kensington & Chelsea.

Further expansion is now certain as more authorities seek to secure membership of the alliance, which has an annual legal spend of around £3.5m.

The LBLA’s formal shared panel of 16 law firms, which includes Dickinson Dees, Eversheds, Kennedys and Pinsent Masons, saves members close to £2m a year.

As well as weighing up plans to expand its membership, the organisation is considering plans to merge with other legal alliances, including the consortium of 14 boroughs in outer ­London and Kent.

Leo Fattorini of legal ­consultants Kennedy Cater Legal is a key adviser to the LBLA. He said that, although the London alliance has expanded quickly since it was set up last March, its size still pales in comparison with other alliances in the UK, including the 25-member North West Legal Consortium.

“It’s still relatively early days, but a lot of other councils have shown an interest,” said Fattorini. “There’s ­obviously a strong business case for authorities to share legal costs at the moment, that goes without saying.

“It’s an ongoing project and it takes time to tie up with other boroughs, but we could well see legal alliances merge because local authorities are strapped for cash and are desperate to team up for the financial benefits.

“In contrast to areas such as the North West, the alliances in London are quite small. London’s unique, but I think the LBLA is ahead of the curve.”

Harrow legal head Hugh Peart said any expansion was unlikely to take place until next year because the organisation was still ­working on arrangements with its current members and finalising plans.

“We’re not there yet,” he added. “We don’t want to sell the idea, we want to sell the reality.”