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Two councils in Hertfordshire to share legal services as part of wider deal

St Albans City and District Council (SADC) and Watford Borough Council are set to share legal services as part of a wider agreement that also covers planning enforcement and building control.

St Albans said it also planned share an internal audit service with Broxbourne Borough Council, Epping Forest District Council and Harlow District Council.

Members of St Albans’ policy committee recommended the shared services initiative at its meeting on 23 June.

Planning Enforcement and Building Control shared services are expected to start from 1 September, Internal Audit from 1 October or earlier and Legal from 1 January next year.

SADC will be the lead authority for Legal Services and Watford BC will be the lead for Planning Enforcement and Building Control.

St Albans said: “Among the aims is a transformation of services to ensure they follow best practices, are more cost-effective and consistent to enhance quality.

“The services will also be more resilient because of greater capacity and increasing depth of staff while there will be better opportunities for staff development.

“There will also be scope to make some financial savings although this has not been the primary driver of the move.”

Cllr Chris White, SADC Leader and Policy Committee Chair, said: “This is the culmination of a lot of work that has gone on behind the scenes with neighbouring councils about how we can join together to improve the services we offer our residents and businesses.

“The use of shared services is common amongst other district councils as the greater scale provides stronger and more flexible services that can adapt to future challenges.”

He added that as well as the non-financial benefits, a more collaborative way of working would also realise financial benefits.

“This is an important consideration at a time when our Budget is under increasing pressure from rising inflation and the continuing impact on our finances of the pandemic. It is a demonstration of our commitment to give our residents value for money,” Cllr White said.

The policy committee’s recommendations will go before a meeting of SADC’s Full Council next month for approval.

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