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South Norfolk councillors approve deal to join nplaw shared legal service

South Norfolk Council has this week agreed to join the nplaw shared legal service. The move, which will take effect from 1 April 2012, was approved at a council meeting on Wednesday.

A report prepared for the council meeting said joining nplaw would “increase resilience and flexibility, reduce costs, and provide a greater all round service by working more effectively, and in turn increase user satisfaction with the service”.

The report – covered in detail earlier this week on Local Government Lawyer – revealed how South Norfolk had drawn up a business case examining all the options, including retention of the status quo. The council also contacted all local authorities in the county to understand their current thinking about provision of a legal service.

The nplaw now provides legal advice and representation to seven out of eight local authorities in Norfolk as well as other bodies such as the Broads Authority, schools and academies.

The shared legal service was launched in October 2010 with 70 lawyers from Norfolk County Council, Great Yarmouth Borough Council and Norwich City Council.

Victoria McNeill, practice director at nplaw and Norfolk County Council's head of law, said nplaw was able to provide a breadth of service and public sector specialism that some authorities, particularly the smaller ones, were simply unable to access in-house.

Savings are made on the high cost of engaging private practice lawyers to advise, she added.

Cliff Jordan, chairman of the nplaw board and the county council's cabinet member for resources said: "I am delighted that since we set up nplaw in late 2010 the service has gone from strength to strength, providing the partner authorities with a first class legal service as well as making considerable savings."

Philip Hoult