Hackney Council has confirmed that its legal department has faced a recruitment crisis for the last three years. At least 25% of positions remained unfilled while the department had to deal with the extra work related to the Olympics in addition to its usual tasks.
In November Blood and Property asked if Hackney's legal team was 25% under-staffed and 50% outsourced?
The questions related to figures mentioned by Hackney's new legal chief in an interview with The Lawyer (links in the older story). This week Hackney Council confirmed these figures.
Questions for the council:
Blood and Property: Was the legal department about 25% under staffed and if so, why?
Hackney Council: Yes, partly due to recruitment difficulties; work previously externalised being brought back in-house, engaging agency staff to cover it pending a restructure
Blood and Property: How long has it been understaffed?
Hackney Council: has been the situation for three years.
Blood and Property: What percentage of the legal department's work has been taken up with contracts for the olympics - would it be possible to get a breakdown of what topics/issues take up most of the legal department's time?
Hackney Council: just under half the time of the five lawyers currently working on 2012-related matters (from staff of 50 including paralegal advisers). Top topics/issues taking up most of legal department’s time: host borough and ODA agreements; governance; planning; procurement.
Blood and Property: Is there a reason why 50% of the borough's work was out sourced before Edila started working at Hackney?
Hackney Council: HR matters, cannot go into further detail, plus recruitment difficulties.
Blood and Property: How much has the department's budget altered over the last few years or has it remained at around £6m? Also, does the department usually over or underspend?
Hackney Council: Budget has not altered, other than 2008/9 when small underspend, service has always been on budget.
Hopefully the council will provide a break down of other departments which are understaffed.