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Posted by: John Brace | August 30, 2013

Outrageous 20 Page Wirral Council Contract over Secret Hourly Legal Rates


Outrageous 20 Page Wirral Council Contract over Secret Hourly Legal Rates

                                                         
Before Bill Norman left Wirral Council’s employment he said during a public meeting that Wirral Council had much less in-house solicitors than the previous Council that had previously employed him. Currently Wirral Council has sixteen fifteen people in-house to give legal advice (David Abraham, Ali Noman Bayatti, Louise Kate Bragg, Gregory Oghenebrume Eyitene, Angela Mary Green, Colin John Bennett Hughes, Victoria Michelle Leece, Rosemary Ann Lyon, Elizabeth Macgregor, Anne Frances Quirk, Cecilia Mary Rathe, Sally Jayne Rotherham, Joanne Elizabeth Rutherford, Lucy Victoria Shaw, Surjit Tour and Karen Christina White).

As a result of having more legal work than people employed to do it, work gets outsourced. Some of this is through the North West Legal Consortium that have a website here. Basically it’s a collaboration between a number of local Councils and others (such as Merseytravel, The Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside and The Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire) for legal services from firms such as Weightmans LLP and Eversheds LLP. The “outrageous” clause in my opinion in the contract is this though:-

17. Confidentiality

The Consortium has entered into agreement with Solicitors Firms and Barristers Chambers in relation to discounted fee rates. Each of these rates is commercially confidential to that Firm or Chambers and as such should not, without the prior written consent of that Firm or Chambers be disclosed to any other Firm or Chambers or any other third party outside of the Consortium. Authorities should use reasonable endeavours to ensure either by themselves their servants or agents that they treat such Confidential Information as confidential and safeguard it accordingly; and they hereby agree to use reasonable endeavours not disclose such Confidential Information to any other person without the Solicitors Firm or Chambers prior consent.

What this means is that they can charge a three figure sum an hour for legal advice and despite the public’s right to inspect these documents and make copies (without redactions) Wirral Council will just black box out the amounts on for example this Weightmans table of prices here and here.

With this level of redaction (which extends to the invoices themselves too), how can the Wirral public know they’re getting value for money at these “discounted fee rates”? What’s the rate they’re classed as discounted from anyway? Links to the whole North West Legal Consortium contract are provided below.

North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 1
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 2
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 3
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 4
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 5
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 6
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 7
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 8
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 9
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 10
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 11
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 12
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 13
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 14
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 15
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 16
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 17
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 18
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 19
North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement Page 20

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Responses

  1. Open & transparent they will never be what else do you expect from the worst performing council in the country & surely 16 solicitors should be more than enough to sort out wirrals legal problems especially with the eminent Surjit Tour at the helm or am I dreaming again.

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    • Well it’s reduced to fifteen now as Elizabeth McGregor has left.

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  2. Quis custodiet custodes ipses?

    Who will guard the guardians themselves. I am with John Milton in “areopagitica”. No censorship should be allowed and these redactions in view of commercial confidentiality – a phrase oft have I heard with WBC-are contrary to the intention of the Audit Commission rules. If you want public work then you must declare its costs. Look at my database iof payments over £500 to see value of Weightmans invoices

    July 2012 to May 2013 £113K

    For 2 financial years commencing April 10 , ending March 2012 £640K

    Are they dining out with them?

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    • I have a handful of Weightmans invoices here, £6k for “professional charges advising in relation to the potential regeneration of Birkenhead Town Centre”, £3024 for “adult safeguarding”, £1404 for Peter Oldham QC (in connection with the Birkenhead Town Centre advice), £8017 for professional services connected to SIL (a voluntary organisation), 6 lots of £720 to do with insurance claims, £930 to do with an insurance claim, £3111.60 to do with an insurance claim, £1987.20 for professional services, £3787.20 for their legal costs when they lost a case to the Health and Safety Executive, £1386 for “local government advice”, £5279.64 for legal costs over an insurance claim, £3825 for legal costs for a case in Liverpool Crown Court, £360 for “professional services SIL financial abuse” and that’s just the Weightmans invoices for one month!

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  3. They have always outsourced work. A relation of mine suffered a fall on a paving area nearly 20 years ago. The claim was dealt with,on behalf of Wirral,by a firm in Milton Keynes.

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    • Regarding personal injury claims, Wirral Council pay the legal costs of their insurer which usually has nothing to do with the contract with the North West legal consortium. This contract is for legal advice supplied directly to Wirral Council rather than the personal injury side of things.

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  4. […] year I blogged about how Wirral Council had entered into a contract with solicitors and barristers chambers to keep the hourly rates it was bein…, when I exercised my right under s.15 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 c.18 as part of last […]

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  5. […] year I published on this blog a contract with Wirral Council for external legal services called the North West Legal Consortium Co…, which was a contract Wirral Council had between 1st April 2010 and the 31st March […]

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