Warwickshire County Council granted ABS licence

Warwickshire County Council has been granted an alternative business structure (ABS) licence allowing it to launch a legal services trading arm.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority approved the council’s submission for the legal arm earlier this month, which is trading as Warwickshire Legal Services (WLS).

The ABS builds on Warwickshire’s existing legal services to other councils and partner organisations, and provides a platform for supporting a wider range of public sector clients.

By operating as an ABS, legal teams at local authorities are able to work for organisations other than public sector bodies.

The WLS provides services to external public sector clients including Warwick District Council, West Mercia and Warwickshire Police Alliance, and Herefordshire Council.

It will provide advice across five sectors, which includes local authorities, schools and academies, higher education, charities and blue light services.

Historically, it has specialised in providing employment, corporate and commerical, property, planning, child protection and regulatory practice advice to clients and identifies these as key growth areas in the future.

Warwickshire County Council’s legal function is led by Sarah Duxbury, while the council’s legal team employs 90 staff.

Warwickshire County Council is the sole shareholder in the WLS and said that there will be “no fundamental changes planned to existing staffing arrangements”.

In the 2016/17 financial year, the WLS provided a turnover of £1.5m which was equivalent to 33 per cent of the council’s legal services entire turnover for the year.

Warwickshire County Council joint managing director David Carter said: “With the ABS licence in place for WLS Trading Ltd, we now have greater operational freedom in terms of the external clients we are able to contract with to provide legal services, such as the education, health, housing and blue light sectors.”