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Looking back on the recruitment for local authorities in 2018

by Chelsey Newsom | 17 December 2018

It is hard to believe that Christmas is under a week away and we will soon be entering 2019. I have been recruiting to the public sector for over 6 years now and I still find it interesting how the locum market constantly changes, and the need for legal locums becomes more and more prominent, especially within the public sector market.

With an increasing number of roles available across the public sector nationwide, attracting talent has become the number one focus. In 2017 a number of legislative changes impacted the market hugely, including the introduction of IR35 within the public sector. As a result of this we have continued to see a shift in lawyers and paralegals changing sectors to the private field, something I feel will continue into 2019.

Shared services

Over the past 12 months we have also seen an increase in the number of local authorities sharing legal services and creating alternative business structures. Local authorities for the past 8 years have had considerable cuts to their budget spend which has ultimately led to them needing to consider their commerciality within their sector. Operational teams were, and still are looking to inject commerciality into large legal services, and as a result we have seen a large demand for candidates with private sector experience. Private sector candidates tend to have a more innovative way of bringing commerciality into these organisations.  However, finding such talent can prove difficult especially with the changes to IR35, and the rates of roles within the public sector vs those within the private sector.

This year, we have seen some significant changes to some of the long-standing shared services and have witnessed many more local authorities moving to unitary authorities, for example, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. We also saw the Tri-Borough (Hammersmith, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster) part ways along with Thurrock, Barking and Dagenham. These local authorities still have some shared arrangements in place, but with this brings changes and the need for locums to manage this change.

Part time roles

Part time roles have been on the increase this year and we have seen a significant amount of part time roles come through to us. One of the reasons behind this follows on from budget cuts. The work is very much still there but it aims to keep the costs down for locum recruitment when the changes appear. For those seeking that flexibility for that work/life balance, now is a good time!

Housing and Litigation

It is without a doubt that every local authority has seen the impact of the housing crisis across the UK. The charity ‘Homeless Link’ estimated that they have seen a 15 percent increase in the number of people sleeping on the streets. This is as a result of a significant lack of housing across the UK, the biggest increase being in the North West of England. From a recruitment perspective, we have seen an increasing number of local authorities recruiting housing lawyers on a locum basis to deal with the increase in work falling into legal services, with homelessness applications, JRs and a backlog of disrepair work.

There has also been a surge in the recruitment of housing lawyers as a result of the devastating fire at Grenfell tower, where fears of unsafe cladding has resulted in local authorities being investigated. This inquiry, and the regulations that have followed has required legal professionals to step in across the UK, and I would expect this need will carry on into 2019.

Regeneration and Development

Following from the housing crisis, the government has boosted funding for local authorities to build thousands of new homes across the country. Likewise, we have seen a boost in the need for experienced regeneration lawyers to bring these projects to life. Local authorities are creating regeneration arms of their property legal teams to assist with this and we are constantly on the lookout for those with these specialised skills.

As we fast approach 2019, you may want to consider your options within the public sector. The locum legal market is as busy as ever and I anticipate with Brexit, it will become even busier. If you want to have a confidential chat about the market and your specialised field, please do give us a call on 0161 834 1642, or you call email me at chelsey.newsom@sellickpartnership.co.uk.