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Hull City Council formally adopts use of electronic seal

Hull City Council has become one of the first councils to formally adopt the use of an electronic seal.

A Linkedin post by the council’s legal services team said the move was part of its drive “towards the use of digital contracts in its mission to increase efficiency within the contract process as well as reducing the carbon footprint”.

It explained: “A seal is traditionally referred to the impression of an image held within a signet ring or lump of metal referred to as a matrix which bore the image of the owner’s portrait or coat of arms which was pressed into wax upon the document in order to authenticate it.

“The use of seals for local authorities was only relaxed for documents other than Deeds through the implementation of the Corporate Bodies’ Contracts Act 1960. The relaxation of the requirement to use a seal for Deeds under the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 does not apply to local authorities, therefore the council still requires the use of a seal for the execution of Deeds.”

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The Legal Services team at Hull added that the Local Government Act 1972 does not provide any detail in relation to the use of the council’s seal and it is therefore recognised it is largely down to the council’s Constitution as to in which circumstances its seal should be used.

“Hull City Council has amended its constitution formally in order to increase the types of documents it was able to execute through its electronic contract system, Docusign, in compliance with the relevant legislation. Section 7A of the Electronic Communications Act 2000 provides that an electronic seal is admissible in evidence in proceedings in relation to the authenticity of the document.”

Bill Prest, Commercial & Projects Solicitor at Hull, said: “The transition to digital contracts has already had a significant impact through the reduction of the use of ink and paper. Contracts which may have taken a week to two weeks to complete can now be completed in under an hour in some cases. The use of digital contracts really came into their own during the pandemic due to the ability to be able to carry on the council’s contracting function whilst working remotely to ensure the council’s vital business could continue uninterrupted.”

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