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Merton, Kingston, Richmond and Sutton councils make landmark decision to share legal services
Four London councils are set to be the first in local government to share their legal services across four boroughs.
The proposals, which were signed off after a cabinet meeting by Merton Council on Monday, February 18, will see the legal teams of Merton, Kingston, Richmond and Sutton merge to create one team serving all four boroughs.
All other borough council's had already approved the plans with Merton the last to sign off on the proposals which are predicted to save £600,000 across all four council over the next four years.
Of that saving, Merton Council, which has shared legal services with Richmond since February 2011, is expected to benefit from a £100,000 saving over four years.
Councillor Stephen Alambritis, leader of Merton Council, said: "We are the first to share legal services in this way across four boroughs.
"The success of Merton and Richmond’s shared legal services since 2011 has proved that joining forces with other boroughs can make a positive difference in providing a quality in-house legal service while making significant financial savings.
"We are looking forward to working with our colleagues in Richmond, Kingston and Sutton and to making the legal services for all four boroughs resilient and robust."
By sharing services the councils said each borough will have access to an increased pool of legal expertise reducing the need for outside lawyers, while moving the legal team into one location will mean fewer office overheads and greater efficiency.
Councillor Derek Osbourne, leader of Kingston Council said: “Feasibility studies showed that sharing legal services with Merton, Sutton and Richmond would not only save money but would also improve resilience, flexibility and responsiveness.
"The new service will bring together legal professionals from the four boroughs in an environment where they can share best practice and expertise."
Councillor Colin Hall, deputy leader of Sutton Council, said: “Sutton Council is always looking for ways to provide improved services at reduced costs.
"This scheme, which builds on our previous experience of sharing services, will allow us to continue that record.”
Deputy leader of Richmond Council Councillor Geoffrey Samuel said: “Richmond and Merton established a shared legal service in September 2011 which has since proved a success, achieving savings of between 16 and 20 per cent and a high percentage of internal customers surveyed reporting that service quality has improved.
“Additionally, the service has streamlined processes, increased transparency and reduced external legal costs.
"We’d also expect any transition process and future partnership would continue to improve the effective provision of legal advice and support, improve customer satisfaction and client care.”
The new legal team is expected to be operational by October 1, 2013 and will be based at Gifford House in St Helier Avenue, Morden.