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Top legal post at Southwark to go as Collins switches to non-lawyer role

The Cabinet at Southwark Council has recommended a management shake-up that would see the local authority’s chief legal officer role deleted along with a number of other senior posts as part of a drive to save more than £1m over the next two years.

Deborah Collins, the borough’s Strategic Director of Communities, Law and Governance, is to switch to the non-lawyer role of Strategic Director of Environment and Leisure. She will remain on the Corporate Management Team headed by Southwark's chief executive.

Under the plans, Collins' current post will disappear from 1 October 2012 along with the roles of Strategic Director of Health & Community Services and Deputy Chief Executive. The monitoring officer role will be handed to the Head of Legal Services, who will become the Service Director of Legal Services and placed on a higher grade in the organisation.

The posts of Strategic Director of Children’s Services and Finance Director will meanwhile be renamed Strategic Director of Children’s & Adults Services, and Strategic Director of Corporate Services respectively. They will take on the majority of services and subsume the relevant statutory roles covered by the deleted posts, other than the monitoring officer post.

Southwark aims to save a total of £1m in 2012/13 and 2013/14 through the package of measures, which would also see two posts of Assistant Director of Finance deleted and a new post of head of service for Resources created. The section 151 officer is to be redesignated.

The overhaul will also see the council’s Legal Services Division transfer under the authority of the new Strategic Director of Corporate Services.

Southwark’s appointments committee will be formed to make recommendations to the council on appointments to head of paid service and monitoring officer.

The Cabinet also noted that all chief officer posts are contractually inter-changeable, with placement of function and post-holders therefore delegated to the head of paid service.

Collins told Local Government Lawyer that her switch to the role of Strategic Director of Environment and Leisure was a very positive development for her and recognition that lawyers do run services.

She added: “The changes will lose the chief legal officer post but everywhere is having to cut their numbers of chief officer posts. It is just a fact of life.

“But what is really good here is that the new monitoring officer will still be recognised as a key officer within the grading structure of the organisation.”

Cllr Peter John, leader of the Council, said: “We are delivering on our promise to save £1m from the senior management structure of the council because it is right, when the council has had its budget cut by £90m, that savings are made at the top of the organization so that frontline services are protected as far as possible.

“What is important is that we achieve these savings without compromising on the services we deliver. Councillors and senior officers will need to work closer to deal with the range of challenges that emerge from having a lot less money available. The new structure will place the council in the best possible position, working in a more dynamic, collaborative way and enabling us to deliver our vision of a fairer future for all in Southwark.”