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Local Authority Locum Rates – a view from a local authority locum

A locum with experience of the local authority market very kindly emailed us over an outline of their experience of the locum market during their career to date.

“I am responding to your request for feedback on locum rates. I worked as a locum employment solicitor for local authorities [for 10 years]. All roles were through an agency. I often worked on large employment tribunal cases and would be involved in recruiting other locum solicitors so I have some insight into their hiring processes.

My initial roles (Northern England) were paid at £18 and £21 respectively although this was because the agencies concerned misled me about market rate. I found out that [one council] had initially taken me over other locums as I was so cheap!

I then worked at [a West Midlands Council] for around £32 per hour, although I was able to negotiate a higher rate due to the need to live away from home.

I eventually ended up at a [North West Council] for around £40 an hour and then [a Yorkshire Council] for £45 per hour. The feedback from agencies was that I was at the top end of local authority rates for employment work.

The bottom fell out the locum market (for employment solicitors anyway) around 2008. I had managed to negotiate the high rate at [a Yorkshire Council] as they knew my work but procurement took over the management of hiring locums and tried to force everyone onto set rates. I was offered £28 per hour which I refused. I then worked at [a West Midlands Council]. I was on £28 as a senior solicitor and a junior locum solicitor was paid £24. Most local authorities were offering similar rates at the time – this was the first time I had periods of no work since I’d first started working as a locum. I was offered a job at an [East Anglian Council] for £28 and I think I was offered a similar rate to return to [a West Midlands Council].

My last locum assignment was in 2014 in [a Northern England Council] and I was paid around £32. At that point I decided to stop working as a locum because it was no longer lucrative.

There had been some scandal where a local authority had paid one of their locums around £90 (allegedly!) as he was a friend with a senior officer at that council. It seemed to have some impact on scrutiny of local authority pay although in all honesty, the recession was the bigger factor in pushing pay downwards and those rates don’t seem to have recovered.

Generally most local authorities had set rates after 2008 and there was less flexibility to push those rates for an exceptional candidate. One of the ironies of public sector work is that generally the legal teams are able to get the client teams to pay the cost of instructing counsel whereas the costs of a locum are met by the legal department which is working to a tight budget – therefore the legal team will get a locum as cheaply as possible in the knowledge that they can use counsel for more complex work.”

We would like other comments from current and former local authority locums – what hourly rates have you come across in local authority locum roles and in which general locations in the country? You can email us at jbfagan@ten-percent.co.uk. All correspondence received in strictest confidence by Jonathan Fagan, Managing Director of Ten-Percent.co.uk Limited.

Jonathan Fagan is a legal recruitment consultant for Interim Lawyers and Managing Director of Ten-Percent.co.uk Limited. "I have been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 16 years. I am a non-practising solicitor, on the Roll since June 2000, and also a director of the Ten-Percent Group of Legal Recruitment websites. I also regularly comment on legal recruitment via my blog http://www.legalrecruitment.blogspot.co.uk. Interim Lawyers is the specialist locum arm of the Ten-Percent group and we have over 700 locums on the books. We can usually keep our locums busy throughout the year, although it does very much depend on the market. Get in touch with me to register assignments or look for locum work."