LIVERPOOL city council is to cut its spending on legal services by a projected 20% under a major shake-up.
Faced with a requirement to make savings of £91m from its budget, the authority launched a procurement process to build up its own expert panel of legal advisers and advocates.
Barristers’ chambers were invited to bid for the two areas which generate the largest volume of legal work for the council – litigation, or personal injury, and childcare.
Three Liverpool-based barristers have now been appointed to the council’s new chambers panel – 7 Harrington Street will advise on both litigation and childcare, while Atlantic Chambers and St Johns Buildings will advise on litigation and childcare respectively.
But in a move which surprised many in the city’s legal community, there was no place in the new set-up for prominent Liverpool barristers Exchange Chambers. This was despite its strong reputation in the field of personal injury law, and its long association with the council stretching back more than 25 years.
City solicitor Jeanette McLoughlin said: “In the current climate we have to be cost-conscious.
“When we went out on this procurement we had to make a saving of £91m, so cost was an issue to see what was the best value we could achieve, while not compromising on the quality or the levels of service we expect.
“Childcare and litigation were the particular services which were packaged and put out to the market, with barristers’ chambers invited to bid.
“It had to be a transparent process, with a particular criteria against which bids were measured.”
The dedicated chambers panel will run alongside the council’s membership of the wider North West Legal Consortium (NWLC) framework, which means the authority will still be able to call on the services of other barristers, including Exchange Chambers.
Ms McLoughlin added: “This was a massive exercise to go out and get partner chambers established, which will give us a projected 20% saving on our legal spending. But this panel isn’t exclusive.
“If we felt there were particular specialisms required which were not available we could still call on other chambers, as the quality of the bar in Liverpool and this region is excellent.”
A spokesman for Exchange Chambers said: “Following this tender process, Liverpool city council has the discretion to instruct other barristers’ chambers ‘off-panel’ if they consider it appropriate.”
He added that the barristers chambers’ were “looking forward to continuing our close working relationship with Liverpool city council in the future.”