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Adviser reviews: Surrey County Council puts out tender for external legal panel

Surrey County Council (SCC) and 11 local authorities have again teamed up to launch a tender for a four-year legal advisory panel as its first, put together in 2009, is due to expire.

The panel, which is worth between £6m to £20m, will be divided into three subsets: care and education; general commercial; and environment and infrastructure. It will be accessible by local authorities within Surrey, East Sussex and Berkshire.

SCC first joined forces with its surrounding boroughs in 2009, appointing 21 legal advisors including Davies Arnold Cooper (now DAC Beachcroft), DWF, Trowers & Hamlins, Weightmans, Blake Lapthorn and Freeth Cartwright. Barrister sets appointed included 14 Gray’s Inn Square, 12 College Place, 4 Brick Court, 1 King’s Bench Walk, and 1 Chancery Lane.

Kent County Council is pitching to be on the Surrey panel via its Kent Legal Services arm. However, Geoff Wild, director of governance and law at Kent County Council, said: ‘I’m not sure there is a huge benefit that derives from these co-operations. Hardly any work flows out from it and the prices they pay are not dissimilar to the prices they would pay anyway but they are tied in to prices that may quickly become out of date and could well be paying over the odds by year three or four.’

SCC is one of a number of local authorities to achieve cost savings by forging an alliance and this tender follows last month’s panel review by the The London Boroughs’ Legal Alliance (LBLA), which includes the London boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea, Brent, Camden, Ealing, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, the City of London Corporation and the West London Waste Authority.

That panel review, announced in early November, saw the LBLA more than halve its legal panel to seven, awarding places to Freeth Cartwright, Ashfords, Bevan Brittan, Sharpe Pritchard and TLT.

A second tier of the panel, which covers a range of mainstream legal services including litigation, contracts, procurement, PPP/PFI, property and employment, saw Ashfords, Sharpe Pritchard and TLT again appointed to advise alongside Pinsent Masons and Michelmores.

In that exercise it was The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea that acted as central purchasing body on the procurement exercise, which was led by specialist legal consultancy Kennedy Cater.