Five London local authorities unite to launch bar panel in bid to slash costs

Legal week - Thursday 31st May 2007

Author: Michelle Madsen

Five London local authorities are combining to create a panel of barristers for the first time, as part of a drive to cut costs.

The London boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow and Hounslow have agreed to come together to appoint 14 rosters of barristers to cover all aspects of local government work.

The process is due to complete by September and the councils have said they are prepared to have up to 15 chambers represented on each panel. Appointments, which are set to last for four years, will be based primarily on fees.

In a statement, the group of councils referred to “inconsistent and inadequate billing information supplied by chambers” as one of the reasons behind the joint review.

It is thought that some local authorities spend more than £500,000 each year on barrister fees. This move follows a growing trend among London councils to appoint formalised panels of barristers.

In 2002 Croydon became the first London council to appoint a bar panel, naming seven chambers to cover child care, mental health, property and general public law issues. The London Borough of Hackney followed suit last year.

Anthony Armitage — director of independent consulting group First Law, which is running the tender process — told Legal Week: “This is a trend that we will see increase in time. The sort of issues these bodies are trying to address are relevant to any council in the UK.”