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Kent delays decision on whether to go ahead with legal services joint venture

Kent County Council has put back a decision on whether to go ahead with a landmark joint venture involving its legal services team.

The remaining bidder in the procurement exercise had been scheduled to present before Kent’s Commissioning Advisory Board on 9 September.

A Cabinet Committee paper (with recommendation paper) on the plans was then due to go before the council’s Policy & Resources Committee last Friday (18 September).

The timeframe would then have seen the Cabinet at Kent make a decision this week (21 September).

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Papers were presented as expected on the council’s back office project but not on the legal services joint venture.

A Kent County Council spokesman said: “Kent County Council has been conducting a procurement exercise to find a potential partner to create a joint venture to deliver legal services to this council and the broader market. That process has included a range of complex and confidential discussions with potential partners. This will be taken for a Cabinet decision in the autumn, and it would be premature for KCC to make any further comment at this time.”

A report by Director of Governance and Law Geoff Wild on Kent Legal Services’ Evolution, Efficiency, Enterprise change programme, which ran between 2012 and 2015 was meanwhile presented to the P&R committee on 10 September.

This showed that the legal team had over the three years:

  • Made savings of more than £4m (£3m had been promised at the outset);
  • Reduced external legal spend by £2m;
  • Increased the amount of in-house advocacy;
  • Cut the time taken for care proceedings by 60%;
  • Remained “one of the most profitable local government legal teams in the country for external income generation”, although efforts to generate income from external work were said to have been "largely put on hold in light of the Facing the Challenge Project” (which led to the joint venture procurement exercise);
  • Enjoyed greater involvement in key corporate initiatives;
  • Created 20+ legal assistant posts, 5 trainee solicitors and numerous apprenticeships.

A copy of the report can be viewed here.


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