The merged legal team of Wokingham Borough Council and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is set to start work next week (1 June), with the legal department of Reading Borough Council due to join the department in November.
The service is hosted and owned by Wokingham Borough Council, which is responsible for employing staff and providing legal services to the other authorities, via a service agreement which the council says will ensure that the other authorities will share the risk and benefits from the collective use of resources.
The new team will be led on an interim basis by Wokingham's Director of Legal and Electoral Services, Susanne Nelson-Wehrmeyer. The newly-merged team will consist of 20 lawyers and two trainees, and will expand to 50 when Reading's lawyers join later in the year. Wokingham said that it would not expect other councils' legal departments to join the merged team in the short term.
The creation of the shared services team for a five-year period was approved by the respective councils in February this year with aim of reducing overheads and reliance on external suppliers and improving recruitment and retention.
Susanne Nelson-Wehrmeyer said: “This is an exciting development for us, which will ensure better value for money for legal services for the participating authorities, will improve service resilience and create better career opportunities and support for those within the service.
“Shared services for back office functions will become more common as budgets become more constrained especially for smaller authorities. We have taken the opportunity to also transform the way we work whilst undertaking this project so we will also be moving to more flexible working patterns at the same time"