Recent application to enter premises under s.22 of the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949

by Lauren Sturgess, Trainee Solicitor

At the beginning of August 2022, I attended Leicester Magistrates’ Court to apply for a warrant to enter premises on behalf of North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC). The application was made under s.22 of the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 by virtue of s.25 of the Leicestershire Act 1985.

Legal basis

Under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act (the Act) it is the duty of every local authority to take such steps as may be necessary to secure so far as practicable that their district is kept free from rats and mice. Section 22 of the Act allows any person duly authorised in writing by a local authority to enter upon land for any of the following purposes:

(a)for the purpose of carrying out any inspection required by the Act

(b)for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is or has been, on or in connection with the land, any failure to comply with any requirement of the Act or of any notice served thereunder;

(c)for the purpose of taking any steps authorised by section five or section six of this Act to be taken by the local authority on or in relation to the land.

In this particular case, the application to enter onto premises under the Act was being made for the purposes of taking steps authorised by section 5 or 6 of the Act, specifically section 5. Section 5 applies where any person, on whom a notice is served by the local authority, is required by the notice to take certain steps within the period prescribed in the notice, and the person has failed to do so. In these circumstances, the local authority may themselves take those steps and recover from the person on whom the notice was served any expenses reasonably incurred in doing so.

In September 2021 a notice under the Act was served on the owner of premises by NWLDC’s environmental protection team. This followed a complaint that was received in regards to an accumulation of waste in the front and rear gardens of the premises and attempts to get in contact with the owner to discuss with issue had been unsuccessful.

The notice required the owner to remove, and properly dispose of all waste, including but not limited to wood, from the land, as this was providing harbourage for vermin. The notice further required the owner to check for the presence of vermin, and treat if found, the land including the premises.

Following several letters, phone calls, and visits, no contact had been made with the owner of the premises in regards to the issue at the property, nor had any of the required steps been carried out as set out in the notice.

A final letter was sent to the owner notifying them of the intention to apply for a warrant. This letter gave the owner the opportunity to contact the Council to allow access without the need for a warrant, however no contact was made.

As no contact was successfully made with the owner, this was considered refusal of entry onto the land, and so it was at this stage that legal were instructed to make the application to the Court to issue a warrant, to allow entry onto the premises, to carry out the steps in the notice as the waste was providing harbourage for vermin.

Outcome

The application was successful and the Court issued the Council with a warrant to enter premises for the purposes of carrying out the steps identified in the notice.

Although the course of action has the potential to interfere with the human rights of the owner of the premises, the Court deemed it necessary and a proportionate interference with these rights, as entry was required in the interests of public health.

Section 25 of the Leicestershire Act 1985 allows for other persons to be taken when the warrant is executed. This allowed for a locksmith to attend when the warrant was executed for the purpose of facilitating access to the property and to replace any locks when leaving the premises.

The warrant continues in force until the purpose for which the entry was required is satisfied. The Council have now been able to enter onto the premises and remove, and properly dispose of all waste, including but not limited to wood, from the land and check for the presence of vermin, and carry out any treatment. The Act also allows the Council to recover the costs of carrying out these steps.

We are recruiting a part-time Property Lawyer…

Senior Property Solicitor

Band G plus up to 6 market supplements

£21,201 – £27,388 per annum (annual equivalent salary £35,336 – £45,648 per annum) plus annual car allowance of £2,856

Part-time permanent contract, 21¾ hours per week

Are you ready to step into your first management role, or do you have existing management experience that you would like to develop more?

Do you enjoy and have significant experience in the areas of residential and commercial property?

Would you like to have the opportunity to further develop your skills by gaining experience in large regeneration projects?

If you have answered yes to these questions, our Senior Property Solicitor vacancy might be the role for you!

What are we looking for?

As our new senior property lawyer you will lead on all complex property legal matters for the Council and for external clients as required.  You will have line management responsibility for one team member, so previous line management experience, or an eagerness to step into a management role, is required.  As a senior member of the legal team, you will help and support the Legal Services Team Manager and Head of Legal and Commercial Services in areas of corporate governance, as well as building strong and lasting internal and external relationships.

Are we right for you? 

We are a solution-focussed council.  Through listening and fair and balanced decision-making, we aim to do the best we possibly can for our community.

Legal Services play a vital role in ensuring good governance and helping officers find solutions to problems with a ‘can do’ approach.  The Legal Services team has an existing external client base of 32 clients, with plans to grow it even further.

You will be joining a team of specialist lawyers, each with their own areas of expertise, including contracts and procurement, planning, property, regulatory and enforcement.  Our structure enables everybody to focus on their own specialisms whilst also being exposed to other areas of law through close working relationships with colleagues.

You will be supported by a first-class administration and practice management team, as well as working closely with information governance colleagues as needed.

As a Council we are embracing agile working, acknowledging that the old days of 9-5 in the office do not need to be the norm.  Your role will be classed as a hybrid role, recognising that there may be times when you need to attend the offices (for example, to complete transaction documents) but outside of that, as long as it works for us and our customers too, we are happy for you to take a flexible approach to your working arrangements.

Are you right for us? 

We want you to succeed in this role.  To do so, you will need to be able to undertake work in the areas of commercial and residential property; due diligence; property transactions; regeneration projects; and compulsory purchase orders.

You will need to be able to advise in the context of local government law and therefore experience of this is desirable but not essential, as we would hope that this develops over time.

To fit in well with the team, you will be proactive, a quick learner, able to work flexibly and someone who can bring enthusiasm to the role.

If you would like to know more about the job feel free to contact Kate Hiller, Legal Services Team Manager on 01530 454379 or by email to kate.hiller@nwleicestershire.gov.uk

You can apply for any of our posts online at https://www.nwleics.gov.uk/pages/jobs_and_careers

Applications must be made using the on-line application process.

Disabled applicants who meet the essential criteria for the job will be guaranteed an interview.

We welcome applications from all sections of the community.

Closing Date: Sunday 11 September 2022

A Framework is the Quickest and Easiest way to Procure – isn’t it?

Kate Hiller, Legal Services Team Manager

by Kate Hiller, Legal Services Team Manager

With ever-pushed local authorities struggling for resources, frameworks continue to become more and more popular as the preferred choice to procure goods and services.  It is seen as the quickest and easiest way to get the goods and services you need with what is expected to be minimum effort but is that really the case?

A framework arrangement establishes relationships between contracting authorities and suppliers that enable contracts to be ‘called off’ when certain goods and service are required.  The framework agreement will set out the terms on which contracts will be awarded and will set certain parameters around quantity and price.  If a contracting authority wants to procure goods and/or services from a framework it will enter into a ‘call-off contract’ directly with a supplier, either under a direct award or by running a mini competition.

Provided that a framework has been established in compliance with the Public Contract Regulations 2015 (the “Regulations”), local authorities can access the framework without running their own procurement exercise in accordance with the Regulations.  The framework agreement will specify if direct awards are permitted and on what basis a contract can be awarded without competition.  Similarly, it will set out how mini competitions should be run, with requirements typically less onerous than the Regulations.  There are numerous well-established frameworks that local authorities can go to e.g. CCS, g-cloud, SCAPE, ESPO, etc.

So why are they so popular?  Often clients can have a supplier in mind (particularly when they have used someone before and have found them to be good) and if you can find them on a framework that is seen as a good way to secure that particular supplier.  Alternatively, a client may not be too sure what they want and a framework is seen as an easier starting point because somebody has thought of most of it for you.  Time can be a big factor – it is common to be told that we don’t have time to do our own procurement so we have to use a framework because it is quicker.

Notwithstanding their popularity, there do appear to be some myths with frameworks that not many people realise including the following:

  • MYTH: A framework is in place of doing a procurement – securing goods and/or services from a framework is doing a procurement. You are procuring them through the framework and are therefore still subject to certain rules, if not those that require you to do your own tender exercise.  Your contract is still one that falls under the Regulations if it meets the relevant threshold.
  • MYTH: I don’t need to check the terms and conditions because somebody did that when they set up the framework – before entering into any contract it is always advisable to get legal advice on the terms, unless it is a standard contract that you are already familiar with. Yes, the terms should be legally correct but do you know what they say and what they mean?  Advice on the terms will help you understand whether the framework is right for you so it is always advisable to get it checked before you start your award process rather than just before you are about to sign on the dotted line!
  • MYTH: My preferred supplier is on the framework so it must cover what I need – suppliers can often provide a variety of services and not every framework they are on will necessarily cover all those services. Sometimes they may be on a framework for just some of the services they provide, so you need to be sure that those are the services you want before you use the framework.  It is always important to check what services the framework covers as well as who the suppliers are.
  • MYTH: The supplier has to use their own terms – a properly procured framework should set out the terms on which call-off contracts can be awarded. They may not be bespoke terms (e.g. they could be standard contracts like JCT or NEC in the case of construction contracts) and they may not always be included within the framework agreement itself but it should be clear what terms the call off contract can be let under and whether that includes the supplier’s standard terms or not.  So if a supplier tries to persuade you to enter into the contract on their terms, make sure you check the framework agreement first.

So given the above, it might not always be as easy as it seems to use a framework but is it still the quickest way to procure?  Possibly but perhaps not as much as people may think.  It’s worth thinking about what you still need to do with a framework:

– You still have to draft a scope of works/specification for your specific contract. Some of the general technical requirements may have been covered for you but you still have to draft something that covers what you need and how it is to be delivered to your local authority.

– You still need legal support to draft a contract (and possibly review the framework agreement as well). There may be template call-off contracts but they will still need reviewing and populating.

– If you run a mini competition, you will still need to evaluate submissions, so you will need to prepare documents for that and set aside time to assess the responses.

– You still need to arrange your internal authorities to award and sign the contract.

Using a framework is in fact still quite similar to running your own tender exercise, if you use it properly.  It is perhaps more the case that each stage perhaps has a little less time to it that overall provides the sense of a bigger time saving.

It is curious that often price is not given as a reason to use a framework (especially given the duty on local authorities to secure best value).  It should be the case that it is more cost effective to use a framework because it is effectively bulk buying but often suppliers will come and say that they can offer a better price outside of the framework.  Sometimes that’s due to a moment in time, sometimes it’s about new client relationships and sometimes it’s about the scope of the services being sought.  It is worth bearing in mind whether running your own tender exercise may get you better rates in some circumstances.

Generally, frameworks have quite an appeal and to some extent probably are quicker and easier but the key to success is to make sure you still procure properly under them.  It is not a ready-made solution, it is a partly-made solution that you need to finish off and tailor to your authority’s needs, so think carefully about whether a framework is the right choice and consider testing the market first if you need to.

Dangerous Walls

Kerryn Woollett, Senior Solicitor

by Kerryn Woollett, Senior Solicitor

There are a number of rock/brick walls across North West Leicestershire, which are over one hundred years old. These walls may look nice and be part of the area’s history, though due to their age, they are falling into disrepair and have the potential to become dangerous.

When a structure becomes dangerous, the Council may apply, under s.77 of the Building Act 1984, to the Magistrates’ Court for an order requiring the owner to carry out works to remove the danger or, if the owner choses to do so, to demolish the structure. If the works are not carried out, then the Council can carry out the works themselves and recover the costs of doing so from the owner.

However, due to the age of these walls, often time no one knows who the owner is and furthermore, naturally the wall often forms the boundary between private and public land, making it further difficult to identify the owner. What then can and should the Council do?

As mentioned above, s.77 allows the Magistrates’ Court to make an order requiring the owner to carry our certain works or demolish the structure. Therefore, if the owner cannot be identified, an order under s.77 cannot be made. Furthermore, if such an order were to be made and the Council were to carry out the works, the Council would not be able to recover the costs of the works as the owner is unknown, and this would mean the public purse has to cover these costs.

Therefore, what can and should the Council do when a wall with an unknown owner becomes dangerous?

Under s.78 of the Building Act 1984 if a structure is in such a state as to be dangerous such that immediate action is necessary to remove the danger, the Council may take such steps as may be necessary to remove the danger. This then enables the Council to carry out the works without the need to apply to the Court. Though, if the owner is unknown, the Council will not be able to recover the costs of the works and instead, the burden will fall on council tax paying residents. In situations where the wall forms the boundary between public and private land, many might be of the view that it isn’t a good use of public funds to pay to repair a wall which is clearly benefiting a private individual, even if it’s not completely clear that that individual actually owns the wall. Others might be of the view that because the wall forms a boundary between public and private land, there is a clear public benefit in the wall being repaired and consequently the Council should cover the costs of repair. Furthermore, some might also argue that the risk of injury to members of the public should the wall collapse, is a further reason for the Council to undertake the repairs, even if there is no possibility of recovering costs.

It is therefore important to consider the wording of the statute. Both s.77 and s.78 of the Building Act 1984 create powers instead of imposing a duty. That is, these sections allow the Council to carry out works or to apply to the Magistrates’ Court for an order in relation to a dangerous structure, but they do not require the Council to do so. This is because both sections use the word ‘may’, that is, the Council may apply to the Court or the Council may carry out works. Neither s.77 nor s.78 state that the Council shall or must apply to the Court or carry out works.

It is further interesting to know that public authorities do not owe a duty of care, at common law, simply because they have statutory powers or duties, even if, were they to exercise their statutory functions, they could prevent a person from being injured (see Poole BC v GN [2019] UKSC 25). Public authorities, like private individuals, are generally not under a duty of care to prevent the occurrence of harm (see DFX (A Protected Party) v Coventry City Council [2021] EWHC 1382 (QB)).

Therefore, as the Building Act 1984 does not require the Council to take any action in respect of dangerous walls, and as case law had found that public authorities do not owe a duty of care simply because they have statutory powers or duties, even if, were they to exercise their statutory functions, they could prevent a person from being injured, in situations were the owner of a dangerous wall cannot be identified the Council is not required to take any action.

The Council could choose to exercise its powers, though equally, the Council, could take no action at all. In situations where the owner of a dangerous structure is not known, s.94 of the Building Act 1984 provides that a notice can be served by addressing it to the owner of the structure and attaching it to a conspicuous part of the structure.

Attaching said notice to any dangerous walls in the Council’s area, may then help to identify the owner so that the necessary works can be carried out.

Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licencing

Lauren Sturgess, Trainee Solicitor

by Lauren Sturgess, Trainee Solicitor

Whilst working as a trainee solicitor at North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC) I have been able to experience the law, regulations and requirements around Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licencing for Local Authorities, whilst working alongside our litigation, regulatory and enforcement solicitor.

So far this experience has included attending a Taxi and Private Hire sub-committee meeting and an appeal hearing at the Magistrates’ Court, and experiencing the preparation required by both the licencing team and the legal team ahead of these meeting and hearings.

Legal Framework

As NWLDC is a licencing authority, we have the responsibility of ensuring the public travel in ‘safe, well maintained vehicles driven by competent drivers’.

Section 51 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 (the Act) sets out that a district council shall not grant a licence unless they are satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a driver’s licence. Therefore, in order to qualify to hold a licence, you must be deemed ‘fit and proper’.

This applies where a person applies for a taxi licence, and where the decision is being made to suspend or revoke an existing licence.

Section 61 of the Act deals with the suspension and revocation of driver’s licences and allows a district council to suspend or revoke or refuse to renew the licence of a driver of a hackney carriage or a private hire vehicle on any of the following grounds:

(a) That he has since the grant of the licence-

  1. been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty, indecency or violence; or
  2. been convicted of an offence under or has failed to comply with the provisions of the Act of 1847 or of this Part of this Act;

(aa) that he has since the grant of the licence been convicted of an immigration offence or required to pay an immigration penalty; or

(b) any other reasonable cause.

Any “other reasonable cause” therefore includes where the driver is no longer considered to be fit and proper to hold a driver’s licence.

This test is applied to each individual case and a decision is made by the individual district council’s regulatory/licencing sub-committee.

How is a decision made?

The Department for Transport has issued statutory guidance on the ‘fit and proper person test’ as follows:

“Without any prejudice, and based on the information before you, would you allow a person for whom you care, regardless of their condition, to travel alone in a vehicle driven by this person at any time of day or night? If, on the balance of probabilities, the answer to the question is ‘no’, the individual should not hold a licence.”

The local government association have also issued a handbook which sets out guidance for Local Authorities in making taxi licencing decisions and have summarised the above guidance with a reasonable rule of thumb to ask when considering a taxi licencing decision ‘would I be happy letting my wife/husband/daughter/son be driven by this driver?’. If we cannot be confident that the answer is ‘yes’, then a licence should be refused.

Decision and Appeal

If it is found that an existing licence holder is no longer deemed to be a ‘fit and proper’ person, the licencing authority can suspend the licence or revoke the licence. Where a district council suspend, revoke or refuse to renew any licence they shall give to the operator notice of the grounds on which the licence has been suspended or revoked or on which they have refused to renew the licence within 14 days of such suspension, revocation or refusal.

Under section 61(3) of the Act, the licenced driver has the right to lodge an appeal with the Magistrates’ Court. If an appeal is lodged, a licenced driver can continue to work until the outcome of the appeal has been decided.

A licence can however be suspended or revoked with immediate effect. The effect of this is that the licence holder must stop working immediately, and will therefore not be able to of continue to work whilst any appeal is determined. Immediate suspension or revocation is reserved for matters where such action is in the interest of public safety.

Recent events we’ve attended…

by Kerryn Woollett, Senior Solicitor

NWL Legal recently took part in De Montfort University’s (DMU) Legal Networking Event held over 3 days from 15 to 17 November 2021.

NWL Legal delivered a webinar providing students with an insight into what it’s like to work in the Legal Team at a Local Authority.

Local Authorities are a pivotal part of government and provide a vital role for local communities, however, sometimes the career opportunities at Local Authorities are not realised.

DMU’s Legal Networking Event gave NWL Legal the opportunity to promote the work it does for the district to aspiring law students to help them consider a career in Local Government. Work includes regulatory enforcement such as licensing, statutory nuisance, health and safety, and housing conditions as well as planning, commercial and property law.

Legal work carried out by NWL Legal’s is complex and varied and offers students a challenging and exciting career.

NWL Legal’s trainee solicitor also took part in the webinar and offered students a valuable insight into what it’s like undertaking a training contract with a Local Authority. The benefits are being able to carry out work in a number of different areas of law simultaneously as well as the high level of support offered by team members. Working in a small legal team also gives the trainee the opportunity to get involved in legal work, such as legal research and managing her own files, from an early stage.

In addition to the webinar, NWL Legal’s Team Manager also delivered 1 to 1 sessions with students. This enabled students to have individual time with a highly experienced solicitor where they could ask all those burning questions about what a career in law is really like.

NWL Legal is grateful to DMU for the opportunity to participate in this event and looks forward to working with DMU in the future.

NWL Legal has also been getting back into to the “real world”. NWL Legal attended both the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) conference in October and the University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC) conference in November. These conferences offered delegates the option of attending in person or online. It was about a 50/50 split between online attendees and face to face attendees, showing the convenience provided by the virtual world will ensure virtual conferences/meetings etc. are here to stay. However, NWL Legal chose to attend in person where it had an exhibitors stall. It was great to see people in the flesh and have them pop over to our stall to discuss all things legal but not only that, just to have a friendly chat.

These conferences were well received by all and NWL Legal looks forward to being involved again in the future.

Disposal of Local Authority Land

Helen Lisney

by Helen Lisney, Legal Officer

In the current economic climate local authorities are always looking for ways to tighten their belts and may look to realise assets to enable them to continue to carry out their services.

The Government policy is currently that local authorities should dispose of surplus or underused land.

If a local authority is minded to dispose of any land in its ownership it will need to take into consideration the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972

Section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972 provides that a principal council (including a district council) has a general power to dispose of land in any manner they wish, subject to the conditions imposed by that section.

Section 127 mirrors the provisions in relation to land held by parish councils.

The following dispositions are classed as disposals:-

  • A sale of freehold
  • The grant or assignment of a lease exceeding seven years
  • The grant of an easement.

Whereas most private land owners are free to sell their land at whatever price they choose, a local authority is in effect acting as trustee for the community. Section 123(2) provides that a council shall not dispose of land for any consideration less than the best that can be reasonably obtained in the market except with the express consent of the Secretary of State.

Open Space – under section 123(2A) of the Act if a local authority wish to dispose of land held for open space purposes then they are required to advertise their intention in a local newspaper for two consecutive weeks and to consider any objections received. It is important that this is done before any final decision is taken on the disposal so it can be shown that proper consideration has been given to any objections raised. It is important to note that this requirement will relate to any lease of local authority open space land even if the lease is to be granted for a period of less than seven years.

The consideration at best value is calculated on a purely financial basis and often a local authority will wish to take other matters, such as ethical issues or community benefit into consideration when disposing of land.

If a local authority considers that it is appropriate to dispose of land at less than best value then it will need to obtain the consent of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State has granted a general disposal consent in relation to local authority land. The Local Government Act 1972 General Disposal Consent 2003 enables a local authority to dispose of any interest in land that it considers will help to secure the promotion of the economic, social or environmental well-being of its area.

The general consent will not apply to any transactions where the undervalue is in excess of £2 million pounds, in which case a specific consent will need to be applied for.

The general consent will also not apply to land held for housing purposes, although there are general consents relating to types of disposals relating to this land.

Assets of Community Value

It is not unusual for land owned by Local Authorities to be registered as an Asset of Community Value under the provisions of the Localism Act 2011. Whilst this does not prevent the disposal, if does confer additional duties on the land owner (e.g notices to interested parties and moratorium periods). Any local authority seeking to dispose of such land will need to ensure that the provisions of the Localism Act 2011 are followed.

When determining whether to disposing of land the local authority should take the following steps:-

  • Ensure that it complies with any procedural requirements (e.g in relation to open space)
  • Either market the property, or obtain a professional valuation of the property and any undervalue to ensure that you are aware of the best consideration.
  • Ensure that any legal or other professional advice has been considered, and that any decision to dispose of land at an undervalue has been documented and is capable of justification.
  • Ensure that any disposal is in line with the Council’s policies.
  • Ensure that any decision to dispose of land at an undervalue falls within the General Disposal Consent.
  • Ensure that if the land is listed as an Asset of Community Value, all of the notice and moratorium requirements are followed.

Provided that these steps are followed, and the appropriate legal and property advice is obtained, then a local authority should be able to dispose of any land surplus to its requirements.

Working remotely as a Trainee Solicitor

by Lauren Sturgess, Trainee Solicitor

I have been working as a trainee solicitor at North West Leicestershire District Council for five months now. I am really enjoying the position and what it entails and feel that I am now confidently settling into the position.

As a trainee in any job would be, I was slightly apprehensive about starting my new position as a trainee solicitor working remotely. I questioned whether I would be able to learn and develop the skills and knowledge required to qualify as a solicitor in the same way that I would working in an office alongside my colleagues. However, five months in, I feel that I have really adapted to working remotely and I am continuously learning each day. The help and support from the legal team has been great – knowing any of the team are only a Microsoft Teams call away to assist me with any queries or questions I have.

I also feel that working from home has enabled me to become more of an independent learner. I am having to use more of my own initiative to complete tasks independently, to then receive feedback from my supervising colleagues. I personally feel this is a good way of learning for me as it really enables me to develop new skills, which can be used again in the future. It has also enabled me to ensure I am proactive with asking questions, to ensure I am obtaining the most out of my training in each area.

Thinking practically, working remotely has also enabled me to be able to work well and adapt to working in many different environments. I really believe this is a good skill to have given that many employers are starting to reflect the Council’s modern way of working, incorporating remote working into many roles. One example of this is as part of a professional skills course (an educational course which I am required to complete to become a qualified solicitor) I had to undertake an advocacy module online. Although I felt I may have benefited from the training face to face, it was really beneficial to develop the skills online when I considered that currently many Court hearings are remote. Someone who may have undertook the training in person, may feel they are limited to that face to face environment and may be apprehensive about conducting any advocacy online.

In addition to this, as a trainee there are so many online training courses and webinars available to me. This is particularly beneficial as I can fit the training around my day and complete the courses from my own home, as apposed to the logistics of having to arrange travel and a full day of absence.

One thing I would say I have found challenging is the reduced social contact having never worked from home before. I feel I am quite a sociable person and have really become used to this in my previous working life, having worked in retail for a number of years alongside my university studies. However, as I am adapting to remote working I am becoming more and more comfortable with working from home and developing a good daily working routine. Having a scheduled daily meeting with the whole of legal also provides a good way of communicating with my colleagues. I also have a number of meetings each week with my supervising solicitors and clients which helps too.

Another challenge I found when starting my position at the Council in a remote environment was not being able to meet with Members of the Council and my colleagues. It was quite overwhelming at first to be communicating via email with a number of different names and positions within the Council but not being familiar with the officers and their roles.

However, this challenge was overcome through arranging meet and greets over Microsoft Teams with a number of officers and Heads of Service within the Council. This enabled me to introduce myself and my background to a number of officers I would be working with regularly throughout my training contract. It also enabled me to obtain a better understanding of each department’s work responsibilities and the kind of work they require from legal.

Along with the majority of officers within the Council, as a trainee it has been great to enjoy the benefits of being able to work from home and working flexibly. I feel the remote position has enabled me to develop a good work life balance- especially being able to log off from work and already be at home, saving myself an hour of travel each day!

Working remotely has also not limited the range and depth of legal work that I have found myself involved in over the past four months. Working within contracts, property, litigation and planning law has meant that every day working as a trainee solicitor for the Council feels unique. It has enabled me to develop new skills and interests, and face new challenges each day.

So far I have really enjoyed the work I have undertaken in civil litigation. Working with our Senior Solicitor, Kerryn Woollett on disrepair claims has been really insightful to understand the process and stages that must be followed in response to a claim. It has also been really interesting working on Court forms and documents, such as Acknowledgment of Service and Defences that are require a lot of attention to detail.

I have also worked on civil injunction applications. As part of this, it was good to meet with the environmental protection officers. During this I had to seek instructions from internal clients and advice from our appointed barrister as well as respond to the defendant’s solicitor, all on the day of the hearing, as my supervising solicitor was away. This felt quite high pressure at the time but I was glad that it all went well!

Within planning I have been drafting a number unilateral undertakings for planning applications, mainly for River Mease contributions. This has been really insightful, particularly due to my lack of planning knowledge before this role. It has been good to see the kind of agreements entered into when planning applications are granted and the information that must be included in a formal document to give effect to these agreements.

When working in property I have been working alongside our Legal Officer, Helen Lisney on sales of Council owned houses to existing tenants under the Right to Buy Scheme. I have really enjoyed this so far seeing how the sale progresses from start, to eventually completion. The more I am working on these sales I am feeling more confident to complete the stages independently and correspond with the buyer’s solicitors.

Finally, within contracts I have really enjoyed drafting a Contract for Services and seeing the stages that follow on to completion of an agreement after the contract is drafted. It has also been a really good way for me to understand what’s happening within the local area to see what contracts the Council are involved in.

Six tips for managing multi-generational teams

by Elizabeth Warhurst, Head of Legal and Commercial Services and Monitoring Officer

Elizabeth was asking by the Law Society to write an article about how she tailors her management style to suit everyone within a multi-generational team. Elizabeth explains her approach and shares her tips here.

7 months and not even counting!

by Kate Hiller, Team Manager and Deputy Monitoring Officer

It has been 7 months since I joined NWL Legal as the Legal Team Manager and I can honestly say that the time has flown by!  So much has happened in that time and I am proud of what we as a team have achieved over the past few months, especially in this new virtual world.

I never would have imagined that I would be starting somewhere new and spending the first 7 months only having met a couple of the team in person.  It is truly testament to what a fantastic team we have that notwithstanding this, I felt welcome from day 1.  It feels like we are a tight knit team, even though we are all remote working, proving that distance does not have to be a barrier to effective team working.

During my time here, I have seen talent move on in our planning lawyer moving onto pastures new and our previous trainee solicitor qualifying (and securing herself a post-qualification local government role) but have welcomed new talent in our new trainee solicitor, Lauren.  This reflects the growing our own nature of our team and we are grateful to have the resources and opportunity to develop up and coming lawyers in this way.

As a Council, we have seen Members return to face-to-face committee meetings, we have reviewed our constitution and are going through governance processes to approve the changes, and we have grappled with the new LGA Model Code of Conduct for Members, working with our neighbouring Leicestershire authorities and the LGA to make consistent changes.  We have also proudly incorporated EM Dev Co Limited as a development collaboration between local authorities, with lawyers working as part of a project team within NWLDC and being a legal lead for the 3 district and boroughs involved.

Within the Legal team, we have been reviewing our processes – not least because of our new ways of working.  The team have embraced working flexibly whilst ensuring we still deliver excellent client service and meet client needs.  We have moved to monthly billing to give both our external clients and us more certainty on fees.  We have also been reviewing how our internal clients instruct us and how we instruct external solicitors when we need to, in order to make sure everybody gets the right advice when they need it.

The team has ploughed through numerous land transactions, contracts, planning agreements and enforcement matters, all with good humour and dedication to achieving the client’s objectives.  It was fantastic to see the achievements of Kerryn and Rebecca being recognised when they were shortlisted for the LLG awards last month and I was delighted that Kerryn won the Best Newcomer Award having done an excellent job settling into a new role during the pandemic (having started only a few months before me).

Having changed councils for the first time in my 9-year legal career, I have learnt that every council is different but also in many ways, they are completely the same!  It has been a fantastic 7 months and I cannot wait to see what the next few months have in store…