Labour call for legal services to be brought back in-house

Labour councillors will propose bringing Barnet council’s legal services back in-house at tonight’s Policy & Resources Committee. The committee is due to discuss the findings of the damning External Investigation into legal and governance failures, but the committee report recommends keeping the HB Public Law arrangement in place and it also fails to recommend that the Monitoring Officer should be a legally qualified officer.

Labour councillors will make the following proposals at the committee tonight:

  • That legal services are brought back-in house
  • That the vacant Monitoring Officer post must be filled by a legally qualified person, and this must be specified in the job description and job advert
  • That pending legal services being brought back in-house the recommendations of the external report that strengthen Barnet’s legal and governance arrangements are agreed
  • That high-level in-house legal support is introduced in Barnet pending legal services being brought back-in house
  • That all decisions taken since Barnet ceased to have a legally qualified Monitoring Officer are reviewed

Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Alison Moore, said: "Despite all the damning findings in this report the Tories are carrying on as if nothing has happened. We must have a legally qualified Monitoring Officer, and we must bring these crucial services back-in house.

"Legal services were outsourced to save money, but HB Public Law has still overspent by £138k after a year and a half of being in operation. The reputational damage of this fiasco is not going to help them win new customers, so future savings could also be in doubt – it’s time to recognise that legal services should be brought back in-house."

Notes:

Labour’s proposed amendments at tonight’s meeting are:

Substantive recommendations to read:

1. That the recommendations set out in section 6 of appendix 1, except signing the side agreement, are agreed until legal services are brought back in house. 

2. That the Council retains its own Monitoring Officer, and

2.1. That the vacant Monitoring Officer post must be filled by a legally qualified person, and this must be specified in the job description and job advert.

3. That legal services are brought back in-house to be part of the integrated Assurance function.

4. That the Council's integrated Assurance function is retained.

5. That the outcome of negotiation with Harrow Council in respect of these matters is reported to this committee in due course, along with detailed proposals for amendments to the Shared Legal Service Inter-Authority Agreement, including that a limited scope of high level corporate legal support is removed from the scope of the IAA and is instead provided in-house and/or through separate external arrangements pending legal services being brought back in-house.

6. That a review of all decisions taken by LB Barnet since Barnet ceased to have a legally qualified Monitoring Officer is undertaken, with the support of external legal advice.

For a copy of tonight's report to P&R see: http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=692&MId=7862&Ver=4 

For more information contact Cllr Alison Moore: cllr.a.moore@barnet.gov.uk

To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568

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