Buckinghamshire councils to share legal resources on path to unitary
The county and district councils in Buckinghamshire have started the process of sharing legal resources from the autumn, part of the first steps to joining up support services for the new Buckinghamshire Council.
Under the plans, the legal team at Wycombe District Council and joint legal service at Chiltern and South Bucks District Councils, will provide some key elements of the County Council’s legal work such as property, contracts and employment work from October 1.
An in-house team at Buckinghamshire County Council will provide its children’s and adults services legal work, since this is not replicated at district level, until all legal teams transfer to the new unitary council in April 2020.
Officers from all five district and county councils worked together to develop the plans and will put forward proposals for a fully integrated legal service for the new Council in due course.
John Chilver, Buckinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “I welcome this decision, working with our district colleagues to get on with the business of moving towards the new council. Sharing key elements of our legal work paves the way for fully joining up support services as early as possible and will mean that experienced staff are in place to take on future legal service responsibilities.”
Dominic Barnes, Wycombe District Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Engagement and Strategy, said: “By combining the legal work of our councils during the transition period, this service-led initiative is paving the way towards integrated legal provision in the new unitary council. This is a really positive step which will make the most of the existing talent and expertise across our local councils.”
Howard Mordue, Aylesbury Vale District Council Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, said: “This is a positive first step in starting to look at how we can join up support services locally in Buckinghamshire in the run-up to the formal creation of the new council in 2020.”
The plans were approved by the County Council Cabinet and Wycombe District Council Members on Monday 25 March.
Confirmation of Chiltern and South Bucks District Councils’ involvement in the project is currently awaiting the formal agreement of both councils.
Since 2016, most of the County Council’s legal services have been provided through a joint arrangement with HB Public Law (London Borough of Harrow). Owing to the move to a unitary council for Buckinghamshire, a decision was taken to develop a new approach aligned to priorities around local integration of support services.
The new legal services provision for Buckinghamshire County Council, including the shared arrangements set out above, would run from 1 October 2019 until 1 April 2020, at which point all district and county council services transfer into the new Buckinghamshire Council.