Councils to share legal services

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Leaders and chief executives of the five West Yorkshire councils have signed a pioneering agreement to work together to provide legal services, saving more than £1m every year.

It will see Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield councils sharing expertise and resources between their respective legal teams more in the future.

A Memorandum of Understanding, signed at City Hall, Bradford, commits the five organisations to work together to maintain and raise the standard of legal support.

This will be done by working in partnership to provide an electronic hub to share specific information that is of use and interest to all the councils.

They will share work plans to avoid overlap and duplication of effort, undertake joint procurement of external legal support and reduce the number of locums and agency staff. Around £1.6m should be saved every year.

Coun Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds Council, said: “I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to negotiate this intelligent way of sharing vital services in a way that saves a considerable amount of money with no loss to jobs.”

But Coun Andrew Carter, leader of the main Tory opposition group, said: “This announcement is not before time, the truth is that Conservative Group leaders have been suggesting this approach for over a year and we have previously suggested that joint service arrangements should be looked at as a matter of urgency.

“Making savings in back office functions and finding new ways of joint working is a key area in which savings can be made and then prioritised towards protecting vital frontline services.

“We shouldn’t stop at legal services, I believe we can also look at joint working in other areas such as human relations, licensing and training services. I welcome this news but it should have been introduced earlier and perhaps could have gone further.”