Agenda item

Shared Officers - Section 113 Agreement

To consider entering into an Agreement with Breckland Council under Section 113 of the Local Government Act 1972 to share Legal Services Officers, Procurement and Contracts Officers, and the Environmental Protection Business Support Officer (report of Assistant Director – Governance and Monitoring Officer enclosed).

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Assistant Director – Governance and Monitoring Officer which asked members to consider entering into an Agreement with Breckland District Council under Section 113 of the Local Government Act 1972 to share Legal Services Officers, Procurement and Contracts Officers, and the Environmental Protection Business Support Officer.

 

The report was presented by the Assistant Director – Governance and Monitoring Officer, who provided further clarity to the report.  When the Authority had separated amicably from Breckland Council earlier in the year, it had been agreed that a small number of services would continue to be provided by Breckland – these were service areas where SHDC did not have an in-house resource of its own to support the Council.  These services were Legal, Procurement and Contracts, and an Environmental Protection Business Support Officer.  These officers continued to support SHDC after it had split from Breckland, and this had been written into the separation agreement drawn up at the time.  As part of the separation, it had been agreed to enter into a much shorter and simpler Memorandum of Agreement under Section 113 of the Local Government Act 1972, in respect of these residual services.  These were interim arrangements with flexibility to allow for services to be removed from the arrangement at short notice should this be required, and the legal agreement itself could be terminated with six months’ notice.  With the new sharing arrangements with the South and East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership, any of these residual services could be considered for service review between the three new partners, and if an internal service was provided, the arrangements with Breckland could be terminated at short notice.

 

Members considered the report, and the following issues were raised:

 

·         Members commented that the explanation provided by the Assistant Director – Governance and Monitoring Officer provided much clarity to the report.

 

·         Members questioned whether, as part of discussions between the Authority and East Lindsey and Boston Councils, Legal Services would be transferred to Legal Services Lincolnshire.

  • The Assistant Director – Governance and Monitoring Officer responded that this had not been part of the conversation at the time.  SHDC received external support from Legal Services Lincolnshire, and internally through the Legal team who had opted to transfer to Breckland.   These arrangements could change in the future.

 

·         Members questioned whether the positions detailed within the report were available through the Boston and East Lindsey arrangement, and was there a time limit to exit from the Breckland arrangement?

  • The Assistant Director – Governance and Monitoring Officer responded that the arrangement with Breckland could be terminated on a 6 month basis.  There was no specific end date in order to provide an option on how the services should be provided and access to these services was therefore required until an alternative was proposed.  With regard to Boston and East Lindsey, members were advised that both authorities used external lawyers, and the internal procurement support was relatively small – it was therefore important to retain access to the services of the staff, as detailed within the report, until alternative arrangements could be made.

 

·         Members questioned whether the cost involved would affect the predicted savings from joining with Boston and East Lindsey.

  • It was confirmed that the basis of the cost was the same as those under which SHDC had been operating under within the shared arrangements with Breckland.

 

The Leader stated that the number of questions raised was as a result of how this issue had been reported.  He advised that he had been aware of what was being proposed but had not reviewed the report that members had seen, that had formed the basis of the Press report closely enough.  He confirmed that the arrangements being proposed were what was agreed at the time of the separation from Breckland.  The two side letters that both he and Breckland’s Leader had signed provided for either authority to continue to use certain services from the other authority, should they be required.    These services were still required until such point as members of SHDC decided to undertake a service review for the areas which they covered. There was no assumption that these services would join the partnership with Boston and East Lindsey as this decision had not been made.  Currently, services would be provided in exactly the same way as they had been previously.  No changes were being proposed – the purpose of the report was purely to formalise and ratify the current arrangements under a S113 agreement.  If members of SHDC, Boston and East Lindsey wished to undertake a review of how the legal service was provided, with services being provided by Legal Services Lincolnshire, the private sector and Breckland, and SHDC members felt this was not the best way forward and there was a case to rationalise the services provided by Breckland, notice could then be served on the S113 agreement.  The assurances provided by the Leaders of SHDC and Breckland at the time of the separation to provide support to each other where required, detailed within the side letters were not formal enough and the agreement being sought was to formalise this agreement.  There were no additional changes to what had originally been agreed at the separation.  No further services would be moved into the new partnership with Boston and East Lindsey unless members of the Council agreed this, and if this was the case there would be a service by service review.  At the start of the partnership, the only shared arrangements are in relation to the shared senior officers.

 

DECISION:

 

a)    That the Council agree to enter into a Section 113 Agreement with Breckland District Council in relation to the sharing of the Legal Services Team Officers, the Procurement and Contracts Team Officers and the Environmental Protection Business Support Officer; and

 

b)    That delegated authority be given to the Monitoring Officer to approve the final terms of the Agreement.

 

Supporting documents: