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West Yorkshire authorities launch combined legal service in bid to save £1.6m

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Five councils in West Yorkshire have agreed to combine their legal services, to be known as WYLAW.

They said the move would bring savings of some £1.6m, but council leaders insisted the combined service would not meant staff reductions.

Under the deal, the councils of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield will share expertise and resources between their respective legal teams to use resources more efficiently while cutting overall spending on legal work. Workloads will be shared out to avoid overlap and duplication.

They will share knowledge, data and performance information and set up an electronic hub to combine information of use to all of them.

External legal support will be procured jointly when needed, and the move is expected to reduce the councils’ need to employ locum lawyers and agency staff.

Recruitment will be on new terms and conditions that enable staff to work across all the authorities.

Kirklees in May led a procurement exercise for barristers, appointing a panel from which the other councils can draw as needed. The arrangement is estimated to be worth between £5-10m.

Wakefield leader Peter Box said: “Each of us has strengths that will benefit the others and by working together – rather than buying in from outside – we will save money and improve our services.”

Mehboob Khan, leader of Kirklees and chairman of the Association of West Yorkshire Authorities, said it had been important for all the councils to find efficiency savings but, “I am committed to doing that in the context of maintaining high levels of service, and this is one way we can achieve that”.

Mark Smulian