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Two district councils in Midlands back shared legal service

The Cabinets at two district councils in the Midlands have approved plans to implement a shared legal service from the end of September 2012.

Councillors from Ashfield District Council and Mansfield District Council backed the plans last week.

Legal staff will be transferred from Mansfield to Ashfield as part of the deal. The combined department will be based at Ashfield’s offices in Kirkby-in-Ashfield.

Mansfield and Ashfield said the merger “aims to improve efficiency through combining specialist skills and experience”.

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They also predicted that it would “also provide a service that is flexible and able to respond to the changing demands of clients, and is consistent in the advice it provides”.

Around £47,000 in potential savings have been identified between the two authorities through reduced staffing costs, membership fees, external legal advice, reference books and periodicals.

Ashfield has four solicitors and three legal executives. Mansfield has the same number of solicitors and two legal executives.

Cllr Chris Baron, Portfolio Holder for Customer and Corporate Services at Ashfield, said: "Although cost savings are obviously a key factor, they are not the driving force behind this proposal. The main reasons are for increased resilience, increased skill sharing and increased expertise. We need to develop more efficient and innovative ways to deliver council services and I believe this is one of those approaches."

Cllr Andrew Tristram, Portfolio Holder for Corporate Issues at Mansfield, said the two legal teams had a history of working collaboratively.

“This agreement will allow the service to become more efficient by combining the skills and expertise of the staff to deliver a robust and resilient service to both Districts,” he added.

Ashfield and Mansfield already share a Regeneration service that was formed in May 2012.

The two councils had previously set up a Shared Service Programme Board, made up of senior managers from each council, to oversee a shared service programme of work and identify potential shared services.

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