Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council has concluded its search for a strategic legal services partner by appointing Ashfords LLP as its sole legal advisor for the next three years.
Ashfords LLP has been appointed as the council's legal advisor across a wide range of areas including:
• Social Care: including child protection, education admissions, and vulnerable adult protection.
• Litigation: including housing, housing possessions and homelessness, employment and general civil litigation.
• Licensing: including taxi and alcohol licensing.
• Criminal litigation.
• Property: including Right to Buy, general conveyancing, landlord and tenant, developments and highways agreements.
• Commercial: including compulsory purchase orders, highways, planning, procurement, contracts and corporate.
• Other areas: including freedom of information and data protection, judicial review and governance, and human rights.
Entitled the Sandwell Alliance, the arrangement will also see Ashfords LLP provide consultancy services - including advice on case management and client care, compliance and training - to help the council to " re-shape, empower and expand" Sandwell's legal team.
The council said that the contract did not contain a minimum level of legal work. The contract will enable Ashfords sub-contract parts of the legal advice and the contract does not include legal work carried out by the bar. Including instructions to counsel, the authority presently spends more than £1m per year on external legal services.
Neeraj Sharma, Sandwell’s Director of Legal and Governance Services said: “We were looking for a partner that could not only deliver legal services across a range of local government disciplines but who was also willing to work with us to further improve our skills in areas such as client care and business development. Ashfords have proposed a really well thought through, detailed plan and methodology.”
Ruth Murray who is leading the Ashfords' team said: "Our joint objective is to reduce the cost of the legal function to the Council, principally by the reduction in reliance on external legal providers, like ourselves, together with a drive to increase external revenue generation by the in house team."
The contract will commence in October 2012 on an initial three year exclusive basis with provision for an additional two year term.