Posted by: John Brace | 2 June 2014

Why did Wirral Council keep the list of solicitors firms and barristers it could use between 2010-2014 so secret?

Why did Wirral Council keep the list of solicitors firms and barristers it could use between 2010-2014 so secret?


Last year I published on this blog a contract with Wirral Council for external legal services called the North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement, which was a contract Wirral Council had between 1st April 2010 and the 31st March 2014.

I’ve made many requests to Wirral Council since then for the list of solicitors and barristers (which are in appendices to the agreement) only each time I asked I did not receive the lists. This unanswered Freedom of Information Act request of the 16th May 2014 being the latest request. However anticipating Wirral Council would ignore me, I also made a Freedom of Information request to Sefton Borough Council who did give out the information.

So first is the list of firms of solicitors sorted alphabetically that Wirral Council could use during 2010-2014 through the North West Legal Consortium Collaboration Agreement.

Addleshaw Goddard
Anthony Collins
Berrymans Lace Mawer
Bevan Brittan
Brabners Chaffe Street
Davitt Jones Bould
Dickinson Dees
DLA Piper
Field Fisher Waterhouse
Forshaws Davies Ridgway
Freeth Cartwright
George Davies
HBJ Gateley Wareing
Hill Dickinson
Mace & Jones
Pinsent Masons
Stephensons Solicitors

Second is the list of firms of barristers chambers sorted alphabetically that Wirral Council could use during 2010-2014 through the collaboration agreement.

2-3 Grays Inn Square
4-5 Grays Inn
5 Essex Court
7 Harrington Street
11 Kings Bench Walk
18 St John Street
39 Essex Street
Arden Chambers
Atlantic Chambers
Cobden House
Deans Court Chambers
Exchange Chambers
Field Court Chambers
Garden Court Chambers
India Buildings
Kings Chambers
Lincoln House Chambers
Old Square Chambers
Oriel Chambers
Ropewalk Chambers
Serle Court
St Ives Chambers
St James Chambers
St Johns Buildings
Young Street Chambers

So why was Wirral Council trying to keep these lists of solicitors and barristers such a secret?

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  1. As to keep secrets secret?!?

    Alan M Dransfield

    • Well I must admit that last year during the audit I did request a number of invoices for legal services and was given them with details blacked out/redacted (such as the names of other parties in court cases). I may do the same again this year (but moan to the District Auditor as the legislation only allows redactions in very narrow circumstances and not what they did redact from the invoices).

  2. Hi john can you please explain why we employ them at all when we have at least 16 qualified legal officers by the council themselves.
    The next more important question is how much the above companies have earned from Wirral council & what was so complicated that warranted the need for very expensive outside sources.

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for your comments and questions. As Wirral Council publish details of their invoices of over £500 monthly, it is possible (if you have a lot of free time) to answer such a question.

      I will answer it about some cases that I know the details of for example the possession order for Fernbank Farm in the Birkenhead County Court. At the application hearing in November 2013, Wirral Council was represented by its in house solicitor Ali Bayatti.

      However when it went to a fast track trial in February 2014 Ali Bayatti was on holiday. So Wirral Council hired the services of Sarah O’Brien, a barrister at Exchange Chambers to represent them at the fast track trial through the existing collaboration agreement I referred to for £1800 (£1500 + £300 VAT)..

      £7,404 was spent on procurement advice to do with the regeneration of Birkenhead Town Centre. Other amounts spent on legal services have been to do with contractural disputes with suppliers that end up in the courts, personal injury claims (for example trips on pavements) and unless they deal with it all in house I would guess that there are legal costs to do with family court cases to do with fostering/adoption. I hope that partially answers your question as I don’t have the time just now to provide a fuller answer.