Decision Maker: Chief Executive
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
Reason(s) for the Decision: Assist with to the
Corporate Priority for the Council to achieve financial security,
this will allow the legal team to set charges in line with other
local authority legal teams and increase the income for the
Council. Part 3, All Heads of Service, paragraph 4.5 of the
Constitution provides that charges and fees can be set and varied
by the Head of Service.
Information: The Council’s Legal Services team currently charges rates based on standardised cost recovery applied across the Council. This takes into account the cost to the Council of the salary of individual officers as well as overheads such as the costs of the maintenance of the offices, paying for training and for things like subscriptions to professional materials and case management systems. On this basis the Council charges the following:
• Senior Solicitor - £74
• Solicitors - £66
• Part-time Solicitor - £60
• Admin. Paralegals - £34
• Apprentice - £15
On review of the charges made by other authorities in Devon and across the country their rates have been collated as follows (this is for section 106 agreement matters in particular):
LOCAL AUTHORITY LEGAL TEAM CHARGE RATE
London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham - £220 per hour in 2015
London Borough of Westminster - £260 per hour (can be £320 in certain circumstances) in 2015
Cheshire East Council - £195 per hour as of 2018
South Gloucestershire Council -£194 per hour
Wyre Council £400 standard fee (under review), rises depending on complexity
Walsall Council - £2,500 minimum unless otherwise agreed
Derbyshire County Council -£1,000 for up to ten hours work and then £46 per hour thereafter.
Bracknell Forest Council - Fixed fee of £1,500 and then £176 per hour thereafter
New Forest District Council - £165 per hour (reduced and fixed fees in particular scenarios)
Dorset Council - £135 per hour
Central Bedfordshire Council -£182 per hour reviewed annually (correct as of 2015)
Torridge District Council - £80 per hour
Torbay Council - £150 per hour – Senior Solicitor
£135 per hour – Senior Lawyer
£120 per hour – Lawyer
£100 per hour – Legal Officer
On liaising with some of these other authorities, Torbay in particular, have applied a “professional premium” to the cost recovery only rates that they charge in order to justify the uplift. This is to reflect the professional status of the individuals carrying out the work, including to recover some of the costs accrued over their career to get the individual to that professional status. We have adopted this principle to allow an uplift to the hourly rates.
The Council can charge at a profit for services it delivers to external public authorities (including other district councils, the county council, parish councils and others, such as colleges and housing associations) pursuant to the Local Authorities (Goods and Services) Act 1970.
For consistency, the legal team’s charges to internal departments will be recorded at the same rate where such charges need to be recorded (such as section 106 agreements, footpath diversions etc).
Consideration has also been given to the rates offered by law firms on framework agreements and to national guideline hourly rates (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/solicitors-guideline-hourly-rates) to ensure that the rates charged are not unduly unfavourable to other public sector organisations or internal departments.
That the Legal Services team charge an hourly
• £120 for a Senior Solicitor/Lawyer;
• £100 for a Solicitor/Lawyer;
• £80 for a junior Solicitor/Lawyer (fewer than 8 years PQE) and
• £60 for a Paralegal/Apprentice;
Reviewable by the Senior Solicitor on an annual basis
The Legal Services team could continue to
charge at the rates currently charged but this will be out of synch
with other public authorities which are charging far more and
barely covers the cost of employing a solicitor to carry out these
tasks. The Legal Services Team could also consider charging higher
rates than those proposed here, but it is felt that, in view of
NDC’s relatively low overheads comparable to some other
authorities and the amounts charged by neighbouring authorities,
the rates proposed are proportionate. This will also be subject to
an annual review to ensure that it remains appropriate.
Publication date: 14/09/2020
Date of decision: 08/09/2020