A large number of councils across England and Wales are looking to adopt the alternative business structure (ABS) model for their legal departments in a bid to maintain their effectiveness as spending cuts and outsourcing threaten their viability.
Over the last six months several legal departments have expressed their intention to seek an ABS licence, mainly to preserve their operations in sectors outsourced by their councils.
Buckinghamshire County Council was one of the first local authorities to seek ABS status and is currently awaiting registration. HB Public Law, a shared venture between the London boroughs of Harrow and Barnet, expects its ABS application to be approved by the end of May.
Another two local authorities planning to take the path to ABS are Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire County Councils, which operate under shared service arrangement LGSS. Representatives of the councils told the Gazette they were planning to apply for a joint ABS licence.
Meanwhile one of the country's largest metropolitan boroughs, Sheffield, is examining a range of models for its legal department.
Other councils hinting at the possibility of applying for ABS status include Wirral Metropolitan Borough, Trafford Metropolitan Borough and East Sussex County Council.
However, not all councils are considering the option of becoming an ABS, said the recent poll. Those ruling it out included Manchester, Salford, Reading, Bracknell Forest, Hertforshire, Hartlepool, Rotherham, Calderdale, Dudley, Solihull, St Helens and Liverpool.