Welcome to the webpage for legal services which is part of the council’s corporate resources directorate.
Legal services is continually facing significant challenges both in terms of service review and identifying recurring savings to assist the council as a whole in achieving efficiency savings in these times of austerity.
What do we do?
Legal services provides advice and support across the full range of council functions and has developed a number of service level agreements (SLAs) with other organisations for the provision of legal services.
These SLAs are constantly reviewed and meetings with client departments are held in the normal course of business.
Our key customers are:
- the various county council groups and its arm’s length management organisations
- elected members
- town & parish councils
- academies and various government agencies, together with other clients for who we act under service level agreements
The overall aim of the legal team is to provide a full legal service to the council and those other bodies to who it provides services under service level agreements or other arrangements.
Key aims & objectives
- We advise and support members, senior officers and their staff and various council bodies and panels on all legal and related matters.
- We provide advocacy services to ensure the council is appropriately represented in the various levels of courts and tribunals.
- We proactively advising our clients on developments in the law and assisting them with preparing for any consequential effects on their services.
- In the case of clients, other than the council itself, we provide the legal services stipulated in the service level agreements or other arrangements with those clients.
We provide and maintain legal advice and support to front line services, other central support services and the council by:
- protecting the integrity of the council and ensuring sound governance
- providing legal services and advice to clients other than the council itself in accordance with service level agreements or other arrangements
- continuously improving services and value for money by appraising performance, developing staff and reviewing practices and procedures
- listening to customers and partners and developing stakeholder relationships
- actively supporting the democratic process and reviews of the constitution
What is our commitment to diversity & inclusion?
The service has recently signed up to the Law Society’s diversity and inclusion charter.
The Law Society diversity and inclusion charter is the flagship diversity initiative of the legal profession.
It is an instantly recognisable public statement of commitment by its signatories and a framework for positive action across all strands of diversity.
How do we deliver the service?
Legal services is made up of four teams, children and adult services, corporate and governance, regulation and legal support.
Children & adult services
Peter Tilson – principal solicitor
- We advise children’s services on issues arising from care of young persons, providing advice, drafting legal proceedings and representing them in court relating to child protection and adoption.
- We provide advice to independent reviewing officers from North Tyneside Council, chairing child protection conferences as required.
- We advise children’s services on disclosure of information under the Data Protection Act, and represent children’s services in court on matters relating to public interest immunity.
- We advise Northumberland Safeguarding Children Board.
- We advise Northumberland County Council's adoption and fostering panels.
We advise Northumbria Healthcare Service on:
Corporate & governance
Helen Lancaster – principal solicitor (Monday - Thursday)
- care in the community
- vulnerable adults, the elderly and adults with learning/physical disabilities and mental health problems
- matters affecting service users
- probate and court protection matters including advocacy
- residents' disputes and determinations
- court of protection, receivership and lasting power of attorney
- deprivation of assets and avoiding care fees
- drafting of policies and procedures for Northumbria Healthcare Service
- Northumberland Safeguarding Adults Board and committee membership
- the safeguarding adults co-ordinator in respect of individual cases and general protection
- complaints against the council and/or Northumbria Healthcare Service
Neil Masson - principal solicitor
- We advise on the ethical standards regime as it affects county councillors and town and parish councils.
- We support the council’s systems for dealing with local assessment, investigation and determination of complaints about members’ conduct.
- We advise on the requirements of the council’s constitution, finance and contract rules.
- We advise on legal issues arising from the ombudsman and other complaints.
- We advise in issues relating to Newcastle Airport Local Authority Holding Company Ltd.
- We deal with corporate issues, such as human rights and freedom of information.
- We provide legal representation at complaints panels.
- We advise about trusts and charities.
- We advise about pensions issues, including part-time pension claims.
- We advise about the Data Protection Act.
- We advise about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.
- We advise about copyright issues.
- We advise children’s services and schools on issues such as admissions, exclusions and special educational needs.
- We providing legal advisory and litigation services for procurement.
- We deal with all the associated council activities regarding property acquisition and disposal.
- We provide contractual and procurement advice across the council.
- We provide advice to the local services group about open spaces, cemeteries and allotments.
- We work in respect of legal charges.
- We brief Counsel or other experts if engaged for advisory and advocacy services.
- We advise on human resources policies and handling employment tribunals, including advocacy.
- We advise on and undertake planning and environmental health enforcement action through service of notices and appearances in court.
- We attend and advise planning, licensing and regulatory committees.
- We appear for the council and advocate its case in relation to appeals against the licensing authority’s decision not to grant licenses in relation to the sale of alcohol, provision of public entertainment and taxi drivers’ operators.
- We advise about community safety, including information sharing and the council’s obligations under the Crime and Disorder Act.
- We advise, prepare and present antisocial behaviour order applications in the magistrates’ court.
- We apply for injunctions, housing possession and other civil remedies in support of the council’s antisocial behaviour initiative.
- We advise on and conduct criminal prosecutions on behalf of trading standards.
- We brief Counsel or other experts if engaged for advisory and advocacy services.
- We advise the fire service on a variety of issues.
- We advise on and conduct prosecutions of parents for failing to send their children to school under the Education Act.
- We advise on conducting breach proceedings on behalf of the youth offending team in respect of young people who breach criminal orders.
- We provide advisory and litigation services for highways, rights of way and village green matters.
- We attend and advise the rights of way committee.
- We advise on environmental issues.
Procedure for complaints & comments
This procedure has been introduced for use by legal services’ clients in accordance with our commitment to providing a quality, client responsive legal service and to the continuous improvement of that service.
This procedure covers both complaints and also more general comments clients may wish to make about the service they have received from legal services or suggestions for improvement of the service.
A copy of this procedure is sent to each client department and to each school and any other organisation which has a service level agreement with legal services.
It may be necessary to update this procedure to incorporate any revisions found necessary through experience of operation or through client comments.
If the procedure requires updating then a copy of the revised procedure will be sent to each client department, school and organisation with a service level agreement.
In any event client departments, schools and those other organisations will receive a copy of the current procedure with each re-issue of the legal services’ client care information document.
Any client who wishes to make a formal complaint about the way that a matter has been handled or about any other aspect of the service provided by legal services should initially send details of their complaint, in writing, to the legal services manager.
Legal services is committed to high quality legal advice and client care. If you are unhappy about any aspect of the service you have received or the bill, please contact:
Liam Henry, Legal Services Manager
in writing to Legal Services Unit, Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth, Northumberland NE61 2EF
We have a procedure in place which details how we handle complaints which is available on the council’s website here.
- The legal services manager will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within seven days of its receipt.
- The legal services manager will investigate the complaint and provide a response to the complainant within 28 days of receipt of the complaint.
- In exceptional circumstances, if a full response cannot be provided within 28 days of receipt of the complaint, the legal services manager will write to the complainant within 28 days informing the complainant of when he/she will receive a full response.
- If you are dissatisfied with the response of the legal services manager, the complainant should write to the head of corporate resources explaining why he/she is dissatisfied with the response.
- Every complaint will be recorded by the head of corporate resources/legal services manager in a register which will contain brief details of the complaint and its outcome. Each complaint and all associated correspondence will be kept on a file maintained by the head of corporate resources/legal services manager.
- If you are not satisfied with our handling of your complaint you can ask the legal ombudsman to consider the complaint. Normally, you will need to bring a complaint to the legal ombudsman within six months of receiving a final written response from us about your complaint or within a year of the act or omission about which you are complaining occurring (or you becoming aware of it).
Comments & suggestions
Legal services also welcome any comments you may wish to make upon the service you have received or any suggestions you may have for its improvement.
If clients have any such suggestions or comments, they should write to the legal services manager.
The legal services manager will acknowledge and respond to any such comments or suggestions within seven days of receipt. If a comment or suggestion requires a detailed response which cannot be provided within seven days it will be provided within 28 days.
Review & improvement
The legal services manager will conduct an annual review of all complaints and comments received during the year under this procedure to ensure that all actions to be taken by legal services in response to a complaint or comment have been taken, and that any improvements to the service implemented in response have been maintained.