Hewitsons' public sector solicitors have extensive experience working with a wide array of organisations, and in recent years have acted for dozens of local authorities (unitary, county, district and parish councils), as well as research councils, development agencies, government departments and other public sector bodies.
Some of our public sector clients have a national remit and have budgets in excess of a billion pounds a year. However, our national lawyers are equally at home advising parish councils and others on matters of importance to them and their communities.
As collaborations and outsourcing become more common, the interaction between the public and charity sectors is becoming more and more crucial. We have a great deal of experience advising both charities and public authorities on joint ventures, outsourcing, service contracts and other and collaborative arrangements. We are acutely aware of the restrictions and regulatory context for both sectors and our aim is always to achieve our clients’ objectives within the legal and regulatory limits which exist as regards their status.The work we undertake includes:
- Outsourcing of community centres
- Sports and leisure services
- Joint ventures in conservation projects
- Property, development and planning matters
- Disputes and court proceedings including judicial review
- Employment advice
- Local authority governance
- Connected charities of public authorities
- Project advice
We are also used to acting as additional capacity to public sector bodies’ in-house legal advisors. Often this is in relation to a wide range of regulatory matters, including state aid, which has come under much greater scrutiny in recent years as economic conditions have deteriorated; for example, we have:
- Advised public authority clients on whether property development projects, involving (among other things) disposals of land, confer a "selective advantage" on the developer and therefore any form of state aid
- Assisted public authority clients with the preparation of grant applications to ensure compliance with EC regulations aimed at exempting certain forms of state aid, including the de minimis rules and sector specific frameworks
- Advised on whether various forms of public sector investment (e.g., equity and loan) give rise to state aid issues
We advise public sector clients on a wide range of other regulatory issues, including all aspects of data protection and freedom of information legislation; for example, assisting clients with their responses to requests for information, including the use of exemptions which would enable them to avoid providing the requested information. We have also provided assistance to clients in the course of litigation before the Information Commissioner's Office and the First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights).
Focusing on the re-use of information, rather than access, we also advise public and private sector bodies on all aspects of the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005, including the definition of 'public task' and relative licensing procedures, as well as the filing of complaints with Office of Public Sector Information.