Tom Senior - Principal Solicitor at Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council
I’m Tom. I came into local government from the private sector expecting to stay a few years only. What’s kept me here since 2010 is the huge variety of legal work. There is all sorts - contracts, property, planning, housing litigation, antisocial behaviour. There are childcare procedure lawyers, prosecution lawyers, employment lawyers. When I worked in the private sector, I just did one thing – commercial property. Here I get involved in so much more.
One of the best things about my job is seeing the difference I make. At my previous authority there were 25 new schools built and I developed the contracts to help make them happen. It was part of a government drive for new schools but the work to deliver them was local.
Sometimes my work is for the long term, such as a new energy from waste contract. It’s my job to look into all the new legislation about energy, waste disposal and environmental issues so we include those new requirements in the new contract; the context has changed so much and now energy generation has taken a new prominence.
Some aspects of my work can be politically contentious as I manage a team dealing with antisocial behaviour. For example, if we find out there is drug dealing going on in one of our housing properties, we can apply for a possession order. We run a transit site for Travellers but we had a group staying beyond the term of their agreement, so we took legal action to recover the site.
I’m working with our planning and corporate landlord team to provide an Academy locally which is partnered with Eton College. It’s a Sixth form which seems to be working well in other areas and is supported by the Department for Education.
I also do things like draft contracts for public health services such as beating obesity and smoking cessation services. We offer these services through our Public Health colleagues and it’s my role to set out the contract requirements and find the best people to provide the service.
I’m staying here for the variety in the role. I did the Law Society Diploma in Local Government Law which is a broad and useful qualification. I do regular Continuing Professional Development sessions too; the latest was on the new procurement regime as legislation is set to change, with a new Procurement Act coming in force next year. It’s my job to interpret new legislation like this for the council.
It’s anything but dull.
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