LEGAL SERVICES by jizhen1947


									                                             LEGAL SERVICES

                             SERVICE DEVELOPMENT PLAN 2004/2005

1.       Introduction

         This is the second Service Development Plan for Legal Services to be produced and
         is prepared in order to show how the service will contribute towards the ambitions and
         milestones of the Council’s Corporate Plan. The plan was prepared by Darren Wall,
         Head of Legal Services, to whom all enquiries should be addressed - telephone
         number 024 7637 6223 or email

2.       Background

         (a)    Framework

                The Best Value Performance Plan sets out the Council’s Structure, what it has
                done and its ambition, priorities and intentions for future years, with particular
                emphasis on the Community and Council’s Corporate Plans.

                Each Service Plan aims to deliver its own services in accordance with the
                objectives, priorities and milestones outlined in the Community Plan and
                Corporate Plan whilst incorporating any actions identified in specific service

         (b)    Legal Structure
                                                     Corporate Services Director

                                                     Head of Legal Services

      Senior Legal Officer               Senior Legal Officer             Senior Legal Officer
                                             (0.5 + 0.5)
                                                                                                       Senior Paralegal
                                                                                                    Officer/Office Manager
         Legal Officer                                  Legal Officer (0.5 + 0.5)
                                                       (0.5 Vacant as 31.03.04)                         Paralegal Officer

      Assistant Legal Officer                           Assistant Legal Officer                           Clerk/Typist

                                                                                                     Clerk Typist (0.4 + 0.4)
                                                                                                     (0.4 Vacant 31/03/04)

                                                                                                       Clerk Typist (0.6)

     In total the section has a full establishment structure of 16 employees which equates to 12.4 full time
     equivalent posts.
(c)    The Future – a summary

       Although the unit still has 2 vacant posts on its establishment the revised unit has
       started to become established and a more self contained focused approach to
       service delivery is envisaged, with increased communication with internal clients, a
       substantial investment in information technology to improve efficiency and quality of
       service and an increased emphasis on the excellent delivery of “core” services. The
       ability to utilise technology to provide accurate up to date information about legal
       developments and improve case management including monitoring will enhance the
       provision of the service and are key challenges for all members of the Legal Team
       during the next few years.

       The demand for legal and quasi legal assistance shows no evidence of diminishing
       in any area with demand for increased service provision being required in a number
       of areas including benefit fraud prosecutions, Licensing Committee Servicing, anti
       social behaviour and constitution (incorporating all of its codes and protocols)
       review. The need to adopt advise and implement legislative changes made by the
       Local Government Act 2003, Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003 and other prospective
       legislation will continue to stretch resources and demand revised innovative
       approaches to the provision of service delivery.

       Responding to the demand for services in respect of the resource intensive projects
       such as Camp Hill, Rope Walk, Pingles, the Leisure Trust and the Gypsy
       encampment at Bulkington will continue to require a realistic assessment of
       resources required and necessitate external support being sought from time to time.

3.     Core Activities

a)     Key Tasks Introduction

      Legal Services are ultimately responsible to the Council, fall within the remit of the
      Cabinet Member for Central Services, but have a wider role in providing services to all
      officers, Members, Committees and Working Parties of the Council. The Head of
      Legal Services acts as the principal legal adviser to the Council, and is also the
      Council’s Deputy Monitoring Officer. Day to day operational responsibility for the
      section rests with the Head of Legal Services.

b)    Key Tasks

      The Key activities listed below are the main areas of activity carried out by Legal
      Services but clearly all officers, members, cabinet and committees are provided with
      support or services on request and during a 12 month period all of the Council’s key
      aims and objectives will be met by variety of assistance and support. The only 2 core
      areas of legal work not provided by Legal Services are personal injury and property
      claims (handled via our insurers) and debt recovery (although ad hoc advice and
      assistance is still provided).

KEY AIM            CORE ACTIVITIES                             LEVEL OF SERVICE
                   Right to Buy
1.1 – 1.5
                   Provide a comprehensive service in          See Key Performance
                   ensuring that all aspects of the            Indicators (page 9)
                   conveyancing process for the sale of
                   houses and flats is effectively and
                   efficiently carried out and deal with
                   enquiries regarding this statutory right.

                   Possession of Council Houses
1.2, 1.4 and 1.5
3.3                Provide a comprehensive service (pre-       See Key Performance
                   court and court action) associated with     Indicators (page 9) -
                   the recovery of council house               response times based on
                   properties.                                 meetings with client and
                                                               the court.
                   Planning Enforcement
1.1 – 1.5
2.2 and 2.4        Provide a comprehensive legal service       Advice on enforcement
                   including all aspects of general advice     notices and attend and
                   and advocacy at planning inquiries.         provide advocacy at all
                                                               inquiries as requested.
                   Planning Agreements
1.1 – 1.5
                   Drafting and settling the terms of          Dispatch agreement within
                   planning obligations made pursuant to       2 weeks of receipt of
                   section 106 of the Town and Country         notice from applicant
                   Planning Act 1990.                          indicating that they wish to
                                                               proceed (subject to supply
                                                               of necessary title

Key Aims
                  Drafting, settling and advising on all     Due to the varied nature of
1 – 4 inclusive   major legal contracts for the supply of    the contracts requested no
                  goods, services and works.                 set time period can be
                                                             provided but every effort is
                                                             made to supply contracts
                                                             to the contractor prior to
                                                             the date of
                                                             commencement or
                                                             delivery. Interim contracts
                                                             are negotiated where time
                                                             periods do not allow for
                                                             formal contract completion
                                                             within the requisite time

Key Aims
                  Providing “pre-conveyance” advice          Again the diversity of
1 – 4 inclusive   and ensuring the sale/ transfer of land    transaction mitigates
                  and buildings from or to the Council,      against a set time period
                  including the granting of a wide variety   for all types of conveyance
                  of leases, licences and easements.         but individual time periods
                                                             are discussed with the
                                                             appropriate client.

                  Development Projects
Key Aims
                  Providing support, advice and              As above
1 – 4 inclusive   assistance in the context of all
                  substantial development projects
Key Aims
                  Advising and taking court action           SLA’s and agreed time
1.1 – 1.5,        including advocacy in respect of any of    periods are currently being
2.1 – 2.4,        the other regulating functions             negotiated with some
3.1               exercised by the authority including       clients.
                  environmental health and benefit

     Key Aim
                         Providing a comprehensive in-house          See Action Plan Review
     4                   legal service to Cabinet, Members and       2003/04 (page 6,
                         Committees including Corporate               point 2).
                         support in the context of monitoring
                         the legality of decision making and
                         advice on all aspects of the Council’s

                         Anti-Social Behaviour
     Key Aim
                         Pro-actively continuing to support the      See Action Plan Review
     1.1 – 1.5           Council’s efforts to reduce the             2003/04 (page 6, point 1).
     3.1                 incidence of crime and disorder by
                         leading partner agencies in the pursuit
                         of such orders.

4.        Review

         The section concentrated on establishing a new Legal Services unit during 2003/04
         recruiting 7 external candidates whilst continuing to ensure legal support was
         provided as requested. Despite regular recruitment for the first 6 months of the year
         the section has continued to perform well against its locally set performance
         indicators (see below) and attempted to provide more challenging time periods in
         response to client demand (see Key Performance Indicators point 4). Where the
         provision of internal legal support was not available due to a lack of resources clients
         were assisted to obtain appropriate support externally.

         Continuing to support the democratic process and integrity of the Constitution
         continued to be important functions as well as continued pro-active support to high
         profile projects such as the Rope Walk development and Camp Hill project, which on
         their own contributed to all of the adopted themes in the current Community Plan.

         Implementation of improvements identified in the Best Value Review of Support
         Services has not been progressed as far as it was hoped but more frequent
         communication has been carried out with at least one of the units major service users
         and a programme of regular meetings has been established. This will lead to the
         production of service level agreements as anticipated by the Best Value Review and
         its importance is recognised by ensuring it appears in the Action Plan at the end of
         this Service Development Plan.

         Progress against last years plan follows in the final column of the following table on
         pages 6-9 inclusive and performance against the chosen key programme indicators
         appears on page 9.

         Objective          Action               Target Date                    Achieved/comments
1   Support front line
    services to combat
                            Give high priority
                            to supporting
    nuisance                front line
                            services in                        Legal Services continued to chair and minute the multi-
                            cases of                           agency Anti Social Working Group demonstrating its
                            nuisance                           proactive high commitment to supporting the Council’s
                                                               high priority objectives
2   Support Members in
    representational role
                            Advice as
    by providing advice
    on Members Code                                            Advice was provided on request to all members within
    of Conduct                                                 48 hours and updated guidance from the Standards
                                                               Board circulated to all members.
3   Ensure reports and
    agendas reflect a
                            monitoring of
    culture of              reports. Advice
    transparency            to Service Units                   All but one Cabinet meeting was attended, all Planning
                                                               Applications Committees and all meetings of Full
                                                               Council including any pre-meetings arranged for all of
                                                               the above.
4   Investors in People
    and employee
                                                  Dec 2003
                                                               Two members of the team completed ECDL courses
                                                               and a further 5 members are carrying out training
                                                               following identification of personal training needs. A
                                                               timetable of employee reviews has been established for
                                                               all employees

5   Continue to monitor
    the Data Protection
    Act and the new
    requirements of the                                    A Corporate disposal policy has been produced to aid
    Freedom of                                             compliance with the Freedom of Information Act and
    Information Act 2000                                   Corporate Support continues to be provided to all
6   Encourage public to
    attend Council and
                           consultation with
                                                                          but ongoing
    Committee meetings     attendees.
                                                           Legal Services have not pro-actively pursued this and
                                                           participation seems to be static although the Borough
                                                           debate generated increased participation. The Head of
                                                           Democratic Support Services noted revisions to the
                                                           publicity of the event that could be made and will be
                                                           pursuing these.
7   Finalise new
    administrative and
                           consultation and
                                               Sept 2003
    clerical               discussion with
    arrangements           employees                       Legal Clerical Support team established on time.

8   Ongoing legal advice
    for the Bulkington
                           of court decision
                                                Dec 2003
                                                           Despite the fact that the proposed practical outcome
                                                           has still to be achieved, continued intensive legal
                                                           support has been provided and will any continue to be
                                                           provided to meet any future decisions concerning
                                                           enforcement action.

9    Support the work of
     the Standards
                             Review of
                             procedures and
                                               March 2004
                                                                                but ongoing
     Committee in its        protocol
     annual programme:                                      A new procedure for hearing complaints against
                                                            members has been adopted and reports on the
                                                            involvement of members in officer appointments and the
      Financial
                                                            member and officer employee protocol are due for
     implications and
                                                            consideration in March 2004
     standing orders
      Contract standing
      Members and
     officers codes of
      Protocol for
     member/ employee
           Planning
     Committee code of
10   Legal advice in
     respect of "Not for
                             Legal advice
                             and assistance
                                               Sept 2003
                                                                                 but ongoing
     Profit" distributing/   to protect
     organisation            Council's                       Assistance provided as requested - continued support
     (Leisure Services)      interests                            will be required to finalise all transfer details

11   Legal advice to
     support "Pride in
                             Legal advice to
                             help progress
     Camp Hill"              the                            Assistance provided as requested
                             of Camp Hill

12      Participate in the
        Corporate Equality
                                Attain level 1 of
                                the CEP
                                                       Sept 2003
        Plan                    standards                                                  
                                Develop and            March 2004                          
                                action plan to
                                                                                       but ongoing
                                meet the
                                requirements to
                                achieve level 2.

                                           KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

                                             Performance       Performance              Comments
                                              2002/2003        2003/2004
1    Despatch right to buy transfer                                                     Houses only – excludes flats.
.    documentation within 4 weeks of          94% (206 of           94% ( 146 out of    Despatch time period has been
     accepted offer, 95% of the time.            220)                    156)           reviewed but further time reductions
                                                                                        are not currently achievable.
2    Obtain 95% of court hearings for               100%                 100%
.    unauthorised vehicles and their
     residents within 7 working days.
3    Attend every dwelling warrant            100% (77 of                100%
.    possession application (unless              77)
     otherwise requested).
4    Start 95% of rent possession                99.2%                  94.9%           New indicator 2004/5 based on 4
.    proceedings within 5 weeks.              (248 of 250)          (227 out of 239)    weeks following client discussions.
                                                                                        (73 out of 85 (Oct - Jan) 85.8% within
                                                                                        3 weeks)
5    Lodge 95% of answers in business               100%                 100%
.    tenancy proceedings within 2

5.    Financial

      The budget for Legal Services Section is set out below:

                                            Budget                        Budget
                                           2003/2004                     2004/2005
                                            £’000’s                       £’000’s

      Employee Related Costs                 309,726                      333,460

      Administrative Costs                   56,518                        51,877

      Internal Recharges                     95,483                        95,875

     The total costs of Legal Services Section are charged to users of the service in
     accordance with accounting codes of practice. The amount, basis and justification for
     the charges are reviewed by a small working group of officers.

     Legal Services are mindful of the Council’s overall financial position, and will continue
     to seek further economies during 2004/2005 in areas such as printing, stationery,
     postage and telephone costs. The section will seek to improve efficiency by keeping
     a close eye on its budgets, and maintaining effective time recording systems to
     ensure its charges to its customers are accurate.

     In addition Legal Services will continue to seek to maximise income in respect of
     recharges to developers etc. for legal costs incurred in the preparation of
     documentation. The provision of legal services to partnered projects such as Pride in
     Camp Hill Limited should continue to help offset the costs of the service to internal

     The provision of new hardware and operating software and implementation of case
     management software should help to reduce inefficiencies, increase productivity (in
     terms of staff time) and make the provision of external services more realistic.

     In addition to the savings created by the restructure in February 2003 Legal Services
     underspent their budget in 2003/2004 due to the staggered effects of recruitment and
     vacancy of posts , despite the disproportionately high cost of providing some agency
     cover for maternity leave absence for 6 months of the year.


(a)   Human Resources Strategy

      Following significant staff turnover during 2003/04 a “new” legal team has been
      established with only a couple of vacancies on the establishment still to fill (another
      vacancy occurring in December).

      A team building session was held in February 2004 and employee reviews for all
      employees arranged for March 2004.Early assessments of training requirements for
      all new staff have been made and programmes implemented for all staff (as
      mentioned in section 4 on page 6, over half of the team have completed or are
      embarking on European Driving Licence courses).Professional development in the
      form of legal based training continues to be a priority for the sections employees in
      ensuring they are kept up to date with the latest legal developments with a regular
      programme of training videos scheduled by the clerical team.

      In accordance with the Council’s Internal Communications Guidelines - Guidelines for
      Service Managers 2003 fortnightly meetings of the whole section are held with a
      published agenda and minutes produced. All employees have equality of access to
      information and an equal opportunity to express their views (meetings are held on
      different days of the week to secure the attendance of part time employees). Every
      individual is asked to raise any issue they wish at every legal meeting and the Head
      of Legal Services operates an “open door” policy.

      Sickness levels are regularly monitored with returns compiled on a quarterly basis
      .Sickness levels within the team are between 1-2 days per person a year on average
      albeit that the sickness levels of the “new” team have yet to be monitored for any
      significant period of time.

      Health and Safety is taken seriously (e.g. electronic height adjustable desks and
      adapted workstations provided to one employee last year) and quarterly inspections
      of the working environment are made and recorded.

(b)   Asset Management

      Information Technology and the Law Library provide the most significant use of major
      assets. Nevertheless, smaller items of equipment are important and the section will
      ensure its needs are met in these areas. Investment in improved technology (see
      action plan) will hopefully result in greater efficiency and sustainability. The section is
      a big user of paper and will continue to take steps to ensure that recycling of such
      resources is undertaken where appropriate.

      The section occupies office accommodation on the ground floor of the Town Hall.
      This is adequate and allows fair accessibility to our customers, although relocation to
      the top floor of the Town Hall will occur as a result of proposals to relocate land

      charges licensing and planning services on the ground floor. Re appraisal of the
      basement resource and better use of technology could reduce demands on
      necessary office space.

(c)   Customer Relationships

      As highlighted earlier in this plan the Best Value Review of Central Support Services
      highlighted the need for greater communication with clients and the production of
      Service Level agreements and this has now been incorporated into the section’s
      action plan.

(d)   Risk Management

      The management of risks in terms of viewing and managing the causes effects and
      cost is analysed on an ongoing basis but a risk assessment of the section has been
      carried out and a risk assessment matrix produced including measures to reduce the
      potential risk. In respect of risks to health and safety experience and contingency
      planning work carried out corporately can usefully be adopted by Legal Services.

(e)   Crime and Disorder

      All legal advice will be provided reiterating the duties imposed by section 17 of the
      Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (“without prejudice to any obligation imposed on it, it
      shall be the duty of each Authority to which this section applies, to exercise its various
      functions with due regard to the likely effect of the exercise of those functions on, and
      the need to do all that it reasonably can to prevent crime and disorder in the area”)
      where appropriate. In the context of services in connection with anti social behaviour
      (see action plan) it is particularly proactive in ensuring section 17 is complied with.

(f)   Human Rights Act 2000

      Although it is the duty of all departments to monitor and be aware of the implications
      of the Act all legal advice will be given by considering the impact of the Act. All advice
      given in respect of policies procedures and general decision making must comply with
      the provisions of the Act if the risk of challenge to any of those policies, procedures or
      decisions is to be reduced.

(g)   Corporate Equality Plan

      Legal Services is committed to participation in the Council’s “Corporate Equality Plan”
      and, in particular to achieving the incremental progress through the levels of its
      adopted Equality Standards. It is recognised that essential elements of this
      participation include self-assessment, consultation, scrutiny, monitoring and audit.
      Our target for the plan year is to attain Levels 2 and 3 in co-ordination with the
      corporate programme.

      In the context of recent recruitment and availability of additional hours of work full
      consultation with all appropriate employees has been carried out to ensure equality of
      opportunity existed.

(h)   Implementing Electronic Government/ITC Strategy

      As highlighted earlier in this plan Legal Services are committed to utilising technology
      where benefits to the provision of the service can be demonstrated. It intends as part
      of its action plan to upgrade its hardware and operating software to take advantage of
      differing forms of information available in electronic format, hopefully providing a more
      integrated and improved service for other internal clients and ultimately the public.
      Further work will also be carried out during the year towards the implementation of
      `case management software with a view to increasing efficiency and providing more
      regular and detailed information for clients. Legal Services will continue to remain
      committed to the corporate programme of electronically storing details of its land
      holding and supplementing the data capture exercise by examining title details and
      updating the sales of Right to Buy properties.


      An action plan for 2004/2005 which brings together the Key Tasks set out in this plan
      follows on pages 14 – 16.

     Objective            Action             Target Date   Weighting       Proposed          Lead Officer(s)
                          Required               for        H(High)        Outcome
                                             Completion    M(Medium)
1.   Support front line   Give high           Ongoing         H        Reduced incidence        D. Inman
     services to          priority to                                  of nuisance, crime
     combat nuisance      supporting front                             and disorder in the
                          line services in                             borough
                          cases of                                     (Key aim 3.1)
2.   Support              Advice as           Ongoing         H        Compliance with           D. Wall
     Members in           required                                     Code of Conduct
     representational                                                  (Key aim 4.2)
     role by providing
     advice on
     Members Code
     of Conduct
3.   Ensure reports       Ongoing             Ongoing         M        Reports considered        D. Wall
     and agendas          monitoring of                                in public session
     reflect a culture    reports. Advice                              unless good
     of transparency      to Service Units                             reasons dictate
                                                                       otherwise(Key aim
4.   Investors in         Carry out          March 2005       M        Identification of         D. Wall
     People and           employee                                     personal training
     employee             reviews and                                  needs and
     reviews              implement                                    establishment of
                          training                                     efficient well
                          requirments                                  motivated team
                                                                       (Key aim 5)

5.   Continue to        Ongoing            Ongoing           H         Continued advice       W. White
     monitor the Data   implementation                                 maintenance of
     Protection Act                                                    schemes and
     and the new                                                       coordination of
     requirements of                                                   preparations for the
     the Freedom of                                                    FOI.
     Information Act                                                   (Key aim 4.2)
6    Ascertain          Assess             June 2004   Provision of                            D.Wall
     requirements for   requirement in                 legal support                          A. Davies
     coverage of        consultation                   for Licensing
     licensing          with the Head of               Committees
     committee and      Democratic                     and appeals.
     appeals and        Services –                     (Key aim 1)
     ensure support     direct internal
     available          resources or
                        engage external
7.   Ongoing legal      Defend judicial    May 2004          H         Site returned to       D. Inman
     advice for the     review and                                     original use
     Bulkington         carry out any                                  (Key aim 4)
     gypsies            future
8    Legal advice in    Legal advice       June 2004         H         NFPDO                   D. Wall
     respect of "Not    and assistance                                 establishment
     for Profit"        to protect                                     (Key aim 1)
     distributing/      Council's
     organisation       interests

9.    Install new            Carry out further    December    H   Improved service        D. Wall
      hardware and           investigations         2004          provision and
      operating              and tender for                       transparency
      software and           supply of                            (Key aims, 1.1 –
      Case                   software                             1.3)
      Management             packages
10.   Support the work       Review of           March 2005   M   Codes and protocol     A. Davies
      of the Standards       procedures and                       updated                 D. Wall
      Committee in its       protocols                            (Key aims 4.2 and
      annual                                                      4.4)
11.   Legal advice to        Legal advice to      Ongoing     H   "Pride in Camp Hill"   D. Wall
      support "Pride in      help progress                        action plan            W White
      Camp Hill"             the                                  achieved
                             redevelopment                        (Key aims 1, 2 and
                             of Camp Hill                         3)
12    Establish service      Continue to         November     H   Service level           D Wall
      level agreements       meet service        2004             agreements
      for all clients that   users and agree                      established.
      require them           S.L.A.’s                             (Key aim 1)


To top