Birmingham City Council to open revamped panel to 38 authorities

The largest local authority in the UK began a tender process in 2008, which saw the total number of appointees slashed from 21 to 12 and the combined number of sub-panels reduced. At the same time the total legal spend has increased by £1m.

The authority’s corporate director of governance Mirza Ahmad (pictured) said: “The rates have gone up from the previous [arrangement] but these are preferential rates. This isn’t what the firms charge on the High Street. [The legal spend] all depends on demand.”

Successful firms include Eversheds, Hammonds, Pinsent Masons and Wragge & Co and the sub-panels comprise areas such as employment litigation, PFI/PPP and property. The roster lasts four years.

Under the scheme, regional and national local authorities will be able to access the arrangements for the first time, without having to pay for the procurement process.

The London Borough of Hackney is one of the local authorities that will seek to instruct the firms on Birmingham’s panel.

“We only have a barristers panel,” said Hackney general counsel Gifty Edila. “We’ve been looking to develop a solicitors panel for some time and are delighted that there are two opportunities for us to do so with Birmingham and the London Boroughs Legal Alliance (LBLA).”

Whereas the LBLA charges participating authorities a fee to join, local authorities will not have to pay to access firms on the BCC panel. Local authorities are also able to access the Treasury’s Office of Government Commerce framework free of charge to purchase legal services.

The new appointees to the BCC panel are: Ashfords Solicitors, Berrymans Lace Mawer, Bevan Brittan, Cobbetts, Davitt Jones Bould, Eversheds, Freeth Cartwright, Hammonds, Pinsent Masons, Shoosmiths, TLT, Walker Morris and Wragge & Co.

Meanwhile, BCC’s Ahmad has been elected as president of the representative body for chief legal officers in local authorities – the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors (ACSeS).