Agenda and minutes

Orbis Public Law Joint Committee
Monday, 31 October 2016 2.00 pm

Venue: County Hall, Kingston upon Thames, KT1 2DN

Contact: Andrew Baird 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence

2.

Declarations of interest

3.

Procedural Matters

3a

Members' Questions

3b

Public Questions

4.

Orbis Public Law Joint Committee Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 196 KB

    For Members to collectively note the Terms of Reference for the Orbis Public Law Joint Committee.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Declarations of interest:

     

    None

     

    Witnesses:

     

    Abraham Ghebre-Ghiorghis, Executive Lead Officer for Strategy, Governance and Law, Brighton and Hove City Council

     

    Ann Charlton, Director of Legal, Democratic and Cultural Services, Surrey County Council.

     

    Philip Baker, Assistant Chief Executive, East Sussex County Council

     

    Tony Kershaw, Director of Law, Assurance and Strategy, West Sussex County Council

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

     

    1.    The Committee received an introduction to the report from officers who advised that the recommendations only required Members to note the Terms of Reference for the Orbis Public Law Joint Committee as these had previously been agreed. Officers highlighted, however, that the Joint Committee had the power to amend the Terms of Reference as and when this was deemed to be necessary.

    2.    The Committee was advised that each authority could appoint one substitute to the Joint Committee. Officers indicated that Brighton and Hove City Council’s substitute to the Joint Committee would be appointed on an annual basis.

    3.    Members were told that specific standing orders had not been compiled for the Joint Committee as it had been agreed that it would follow the standing orders of the authority that was hosting the meeting.

     

    Actions/ further information to be provided:

     

    None

     

    RESOLVED: That theOrbis Public Law Joint Committee:

     

          i.        noted the Terms of Reference agreed by the constituent authorities as set out in Annex 1 to the report; and

     

         ii.        agreed that meetings are chaired by the Lead Member for the authority hosting the meeting.

5.

Project Approach and Progress pdf icon PDF 723 KB

    To provide the Orbis Public Law Joint Committee with an update on the development and integration of the partnership. 

    Minutes:

    Cllr David Elkin arrived at the meeting at 14.20 during the discussions on this item.

     

    Declarations of interest:

     

    None

     

    Witnesses:

     

    Abraham Ghebre-Ghiorghis, Executive Lead Officer for Strategy, Governance and Law, Brighton and Hove City Council

     

    Andrea Kilby, Orbis Public Law Business Development Manager

     

    Ann Charlton, Director of Legal, Democratic and Cultural Services, Surrey County Council

     

    Emma Nash, Orbis Public Law Project Manager

     

    Philip Baker, Assistant Chief Executive, East Sussex County Council

     

    Tony Kershaw, Director of Law, Assurance and Strategy, West Sussex County Council

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

     

    1.    Officers introduced the report detailing the rationale behind the creation of the Orbis Public Law partnership. Each of the four partner authorities had faced a sharp increase in demand on their legal services departments in recent years driven chiefly by a steep rise in the number of child protection cases. The Committee was advised that pooling resources across the partner authorities would lead to significantly improved resilience across the four legal services teams. Members were further informed that the partnership should enable the sharing of knowledge and expertise in specific areas of law while also reducing reliance on external advocacy services thereby contributing to financial savings across the partnership. Further spending reductions would also be achieved by enabling paralegals to take on a greater volume of the workload thereby reducing reliance on barristers and solicitors.

    2.    Members requested further information on the degree to which the four authorities relied on external advocates to help deal with the volume of caseloads. Officers indicated that, at present, each team employed advocates with the expectation being that they would be able to manage a proportion of the expected volume of cases. Where there was a particularly complex case or the number of cases exceeded capacity, it was necessary to use external advocates. For this, and reasons of significant growth in cases in other areas, East Sussex County Council (ESCC) had had a drive to reduce spending on external advocates which meant it had significantly lower expenditure in this area than the other authorities in the partnership. Collective spending on legal costs related to childcare across the four councils in the 2015/16 financial year was £3.25 million of which £1.7 million was spent on external advocacy services. The Orbis Public Law partnership would help to reduce costs in this area by creating a single pool for advocacy services as well as facilitating the sharing of specialist legal knowledge across teams.

    3.    The Committee was advised that there was an aspiration to develop an electronic court system which would not only to help to reduce costs but would also enable court proceedings to be paperless and more efficient.

    4.    Officers highlighted that the partnership would seek opportunities to generate income by offering legal advice to public sector organisations on areas where there is expertise across the partnership. A commercial pathfinder had been created and officers were in the process of developing an organisational structure for Orbis Public Law designed to support income generation.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Finance Update pdf icon PDF 263 KB

    To provide an update on the finance workstream, the financial principles to be used for the partnershipand set out the next steps for setting the Orbis Public Law shared budget.

    Minutes:

    Declarations of interest:

     

    None

     

    Witnesses:

     

    Abraham Ghebre-Ghiorghis, Executive Lead Officer for Strategy, Governance and Law, Brighton and Hove City Council

     

    Ann Charlton, Director of Legal, Democratic and Cultural Services, Surrey County Council.

     

    Philip Baker, Assistant Chief Executive, East Sussex County Council

     

    Tony Kershaw, Director of Law, Assurance and Strategy, West Sussex County Council

     

    Marie Nickalls, Orbis Public Law Finance Lead, East Sussex County Council

     

    Key points raised during the discussion:

     

    1.    Members received an introduction to the report including details of how financial contributions to and savings from Orbis Public Law would be apportioned across the four constituent organisations. The Committee was advised that savings achieved would be divided according to the amount of money that each organisation committed to the partnership budget as well as factoring in the extent to which each of the partners utilised Orbis Public Law services. The savings achieved through the partnership would then be returned to each sovereign authority as opposed to being retained within the partnership.

    2.    Members were further informed that budget contribution ratios by individual authorities could also be flexed in accordance with the amount that each council utilised Orbis Public Law. This would be reviewed annually. The Committee asked whether it would be possible to undertake an in year review of funding contribution ratios. Officers indicated that if use of Orbis Public Law services by an individual authority exceeded 10% of the agreed amount then this would trigger an automatic review of contribution ratios although measures would be put in place to avoid reaching this point. This would be enshrined within the Inter-Authority Agreement (IAA) which was in the process of being drafted. Officers were asked to bring the IAA to the next Joint Committee meeting for consideration.

    3.    The Committee inquired as to how external legal services would be funded and were informed that it was proposed that these continued to be paid for by individual authorities. This was due to the fact that budgeting arrangements for external legal services was done differently across the four councils. The intention was, however, to create a single pool for external  legal services which would reduce costs for each authority. Members requested that officers draw up proposals on how external legal services could be paid for through the central Orbis Public Law budget for consideration by the Joint Committee.

    4.    Members stressed that without concrete examples it was challenging to develop a picture of how the finances for Orbis Public Law would operate. Officers were therefore asked to provide clear examples of the partnership’s financial arrangements for the next finance update due to be considered by the Joint Committee.

     

    Actions/ further information to be provided:

     

    1.    An item on the Inter-Authority Agreement to be brought to the Orbis Public Law Joint Committee meeting in January 2017.

    2.    Officers to model how funding external advocacy services through the central Orbis Public Law budget would operate.

    3.    The next finance update for consideration by the Joint Committee should provide clear examples of the financial  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

DATE OF THE NEXT MEETING