There are questions about whether Cambridgeshire County Council got value for money from a law firm it hired to fight cases against parents with disabled children, after close ties were revealed between the council and the firm.

The county council dropped Baker Small last week, after its official Twitter account posted a number of tweets that appeared to gloat about victories over parents whose children have special educational needs (SEN).

But further investigation into Baker Small reveals close ties with Cambridgeshire.

Baker Small’s managing director Mark Small was Cambridgeshire County Council’s principal solicitor and head of adults, education and employment between January 2009 and May 2010.

He left to set up Baker Small.

The council’s own payment data then shows Cambridgeshire commissioning services from Baker Small as early as July 2010, when it paid the firm £24,000 for ‘specialist equipment for service provision’.
What councils paid Baker Small in 2015/16

Buckinghamshire – £144,000

Hertfordshire – £122,500

Norfolk – £92,590.50

Hammersmith & Fulham – £87,000

Worcestershire – £82,068.85

Barnet – £64,634

Hillingdon – £60,680

Croydon – £55,000

Kensington & Chelsea – £50,370.41

All figures from these councils’ own payment data for 2015/16
Analysis by the News also shows Cambridgeshire paid Baker Small the joint highest amount of any local authority in the 2015/16 financial year.

Cambridgeshire paid Baker Small £36,000 every three months, according to council payment records.

Only Buckinghamshire County Council had the same deal. Other councils have long-term contracts with Baker Small which work out at a smaller annual spend, or appear to pay the firm on a case-by-case basis.

A council spokesman said this sort of regular payment “represents much better value for money than paying on a case-by-case basis”.

Council records show Cambridgeshire has paid Baker Small almost £550,000 the past six years.

Cambridgeshire County Council is one of two owners of LGSS Law – a law firm tailored to the public sector. A press release last year announcing its creation said LGSS Law had access to 85 lawyers and support staff.
Cambridgeshire’s payments to Baker Small (all figures from the council’s own payment data)
Jul-10  £24,000
Jan-11  £2191.40
Feb-11  £15,275
Jul-11  £13,500
Oct-11  £13,500
Feb-12  £15,600
Apr-12  £15,600
Jun-12  £30,000
Oct-12  £30,000
May-13  £30,000
Sep-13  £60,000
May-14  £72,000
Nov-14  £36,000
Feb-15  £36,000
May-15  £36,000
Aug-15  £36,000
Oct-15  £36,000
Jan-16  £36,000
TOTAL  £537,666.
We would have preferred to use in-house lawyers, but at the time there was no-one with the required expertise in SEN,” said a council spokesman.

“LGSS Law did not have any SEN expertise or experience at the time, but are currently developing this. We will shortly be putting the service out to tender.”

Cllr Lorna Dupre was the first to write to the county council demanding action in light of Baker Small’s tweets.

“The immediate decision to cease to engage Baker Small for new cases is welcome – there is no place here for the attitudes towards local families displayed in the Twitter messages of 11 June,” she said.

“But there may well be more questions still to be answered, about the large sums of money used by Cambridgeshire County Council to pay for external representation at special educational needs tribunals, how these choices were made, and whether they represented value for money and fairness to parents.

“It seems to me that those are questions we as councillors have a duty to ask.”

Baker Small managing director Mr Small did not respond to requests for comment.

Council continues to use ‘despicable’ law firm in SEN cases




2 thoughts on “

  1. The disability industry is a huge gravy train for so many and completely unaccountable.

    This is deliberate, so that more is privatised, and jobs for boys under secret cabals ie more local money and power,

    iNCOME streams of education, care and NHS combined in SEN, Care Act and restructuring of NHS and corporate confidentiality can be used.

    Ripe for corruption and conflict of interests, and deliberately created because of this by our governments, now and successive.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As if an LA could not employ a lawyer with the necessary experience ?

    This is just providing jobs for the boys and extra expense to the LA cOUNCIL tax payer.

    As with outsourcing of care support and social worker provision,the outsourcers REED, CAPITA ,SERCO get far more money for providing the staff which the LA could, did and should do than the people actually doing the job.

    Google finola moss blog for details.

    This is rip off.

    Remember also,the LA have a statutory duty to provide adequate special needs provision for those who need it, and should not be spending money avoiding this duty.


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