LEGAL advice is moving in-house at the Wanganui District Council later this month.
The district council has contracted the services of a lawyer from legal firm Kensington Swan to work within the council's administration.
Confirming the appointment yesterday Mayor Michael laws said the secondment will bring considerable savings for the council as work currently contracted out will be dealt with from the Guyton St office.
Legal fees have shown up as a costly overrun for the council with chief financial officer Julian Harkness forecasting a $160,000 overspend to June 30 this year.
Mr Laws said because the council had become involved in a series of legal actions, including the port, dog control issues and the gang insignia bill, there was a lot of legal advice being contracted out.
Previously the council used local firm Treadwell Gordon but changed to Kensington Swan, a law firm with offices in Auckland and Wellington.
"Then we looked at what was happening and thought: why don't we go and get our own lawyer?
"We have employed someone on secondment from Kensington Swan. We expect it to cost council about $100,000 but will save not only their own salary but probably another $60,000 on top of that," he said.
The lawyer starts with council on March 19.
"The aim is that in future we never go without in-house legal counsel again, both in terms of the cost and having someone here who understands local authority processes."
He said last year council spent $400,000 in legal fees "or that's what we've estimated we'll spend. By hiring our own in-house counsel we believe we'll save $60-70,000 in the 2007-08 financial year."
In the last eight months council has called on legal advice on about 20 occasions. They included advice on a personal grievance, two matters involving harbour endowment land (including the existing lease with River City Port), the Whanganui Regional Museum (whether staff "belong" to council or the museum trustees and another staffing matter), and city endowment land (sale of Quay School of Arts building to Ucol).
"That money ($500,000 a year rental) used to go into the city endowment but council has sold the building to Ucol.
"We had them in a 10-year lease so you could say our contribution to the Ucol redevelopment totals about $2 million (for the time the lease had to run)," Mr Laws said.
"There was also legal opinion sought on staff redundancy issues that follow the administrative reorganisation. Then we had Resource Management Act matters and one of those has gone back to the courts on appeal."
Further legal involvement surrounded ANZ financing (council's terms of trade), the Wanganui airport (argument with Crown over incomes), debt recovery, trademark registration( branding), two instances involving the Public Works Act, software licensing, the gang insignia bill, hillside slip issues (Hipango Tce was one of these).
The latest expense was incurred with council's decision to its roading activity review.
"Without doubt the biggest expenses have been incurred with the airport, the Wanganui Gas share buyout and the port lease ," Mr Laws said.
"We believe a senior lawyer with a background in administrative law could have handled many of these issues and saved us quite a bit of money."
He said he believed contracting out work to law firms, whether they were in Wanganui, Auckland or Wellington, had always been an issue for the council.