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Kent CC fires gun on search for joint venture partner for legal services

Kent County Council has published details of the market engagement exercise it will undertake in its bid to find a commercial partner for its legal services team.

The authority’s Transformation Advisory Group – comprising senior members and senior officers – last month selected plans for a commercial partner and alternative business structure for Kent Legal Services (KLS) out of six options.

Published this week (8 April) on the Kent Business Portal, the notice for the market engagement exercise said: “Over the past 11 years, KLS has operated as a traded service, generating income for KCC of over £13.5m that has helped fund key frontline services.

“KCC has now decided that, given KLS's excellent track record and capacity to continue to grow its offering to both internal and external clients, the time is right to seek expressions of interest from the private sector to invest in the future of KLS, to increase the contribution it can make to the funding of frontline services, and to further improve its efficiency and performance for the benefit of its clients.”

The local authority said that it, along with the rest of the public sector, was facing an unprecedented financial challenge due to reductions in Government funding and increased demands from demographic and other pressures.

It added that as part of its whole-council transformation programme, there were “significant opportunities to widen KLS's client base and income generating potential”. 

The notice said: “Accordingly, KCC would like to invite organisations to participate in a Legal Services Market Engagement exercise with the aim of forming a Joint Venture (JV)/Alternative Business Structure (ABS) to deliver legal services to KCC and the wider market, whilst retaining and building upon KLS's existing client base.

“KCC is not interested in discussions about traditional models of legal service delivery or outsourcing. KCC and the successful tenderer will work together as partners to maximise profits and build on the success of KLS's past achievements.”

The local authority said the key requirements for interested organisations were:

  • It would be preferable if the partner organisation had already received approval from the Solicitors Regulation Authority for an ABS.
  • The partner organisation would be required to demonstrate that they would be able to add significant value to the existing KLS service offering, “including technical expertise, marketing and a supply of work”.
  • The new JV/ABS would be required to provide a comprehensive legal service provision, under contract, to KCC.
  • A bidders day would be held in due course and information about this would be sent to all those organisations who expressed an interest.

The notice, which can be viewed here, said it was envisaged that KCC would be procuring the partnership opportunity together with its legal requirements in 2014.

Speaking to Local Government Lawyer last week, Geoff Wild, Director of Governance & Law at KCC, said: “We are very much looking to transfer staff to the vehicle, have an injection of capital and resources of various kinds from our commercial partner and deliver legal services to a much wider market as well as delivering those services back to the county council at a reduced cost.”

Wild added that the local authority would benefit in three principal ways, namely by “having a saving on its legal bill, an income stream from the company that is jointly created, and a capital asset”.