Shared Legal Services Alternative Business Structure Proposal - III

Currently waiting for a response from Westminster City Council, they must respond promptly and normally no later than (details).

Rosalie Nielson

Dear Westminster City Council,

Background

1. On 30 October 2017 your Cabinet received a report on the above subject, a proposed merger of the City Council's shared legal services with LGSS Law Ltd, an alternative business structure.

2. The report purported to be able to estimate "savings" from the proposed merger without reference to the terms on which it would take place. It proposed there should be no client role in relation to the new legal service at all (other than the Director of Corporate Services). The report contained none of the information necessary to enable the Cabinet to make an informed decision (see my first request), but said it was essential that implementation should proceed "at pace".

3. The Cabinet agreed the recommendations in the report.

4. The Director of Corporate Services and the Director of Law appear not to have implemented the Cabinet's decision. Nor have they returned to Cabinet with any explanation or further recommendations.

5. On 15 January 2018 the then Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services reported to the Housing, Finance and Corporate Services Policy and Scrutiny Committee, without comment or explanation, that "the merger proposal with LGSS Law is currently on hold and 'go live' is postponed until at least April 2018".

6. On 26 March 2018 the Cabinet Member reported again to the Policy and Scrutiny Committee, now saying that the go live date "has been paused".

7. The Council's Forward Plan refers to a report from the Director of Law on a "Legal Services Proposal to move from Tri to Bi Borough Arrangements". A decision on the report was due to be taken on 22 March by the Cabinet Member. However, no report has yet been submitted. Nevertheless, it appears Legal Services has moved from Tri to Bi Borough arrangements. Since the Tri borough arrangement was one designed to achieve savings, presumably its collapse involves further cost.

8. In March 2018 a Best Value inspection of Northamptonshire County Council, a failing authority which was to have been one of the City Council's partners as a shareholder in LGSS Law Ltd, was published. It criticised the County Council's relationship with LGSS as one which fragmented the expertise available to support the strategic management of the council, and said "while legal services are delivered by LGSS Law Ltd, the lack of an appreciable client role for legal services has not assisted the council in controlling its costs".

9. In May 2018 Quentin Baker resigned as the Executive Director of LGSS Law Ltd.

10. On 20 June 2018 the new Cabinet Member for Finance, Property and Regeneration provided an "update" to the Housing, Finance and Customer Policy and Scrutiny Committee. No mention was made of LGSS Law Ltd. The single priority of the Shared Legal Service for 2018/19 with respect to the City Council was said to be "Support to the Grenfell Public Inquiry and Criminal Investigation" - that is, work for another authority.

11.On 9 July 208 the Cabinet received a report from the City Treasurer on the City Council's financial outturn for 2017/18. Despite not prioritising any City Council work, the Legal Service recorded a huge £231k overspend for the year, part of which was attributable to spending £86k on implementation costs in relation to LGSS Law Ltd.

So far as one can tell from information in the public domain, therefore, those at officer level responsible for the City Council's legal service have wasted substantial amounts of public money , and are treating the elected members of the Council with contempt.

Request

Please provide me with all correspondence passing between the City Council's Director of Law, Director of Corporate Services and/or responsible Cabinet member in relation to the shared legal services alternative business structure proposal, between 1 November 2017 and 1 July 2018.

Thank you

Yours faithfully,

Rosalie Nielson

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