Following the fallout from the Baker Small affair, North Yorkshire County Council revealed it has started using barristers for legal representation at the SEND Tribunal. So far the Council has used one barrister, Joanne Astbury, from Park Lane Plowmen Chambers in Leeds for a one off fee of £3300. This was last September (2015) while it still had a contract for representation from Baker Small. It is not known why the Council opted to use a barrister over Baker Small. However, the Council continues to use Baker Small - it has a contract that runs until September.
Payments are detailed on the Open Data page of the council's website.
Total to date
09/15 Central services/ Corporate Legal Expenses/Legal Costs £2750 (link)
25/03/15 Other Hired and Contract Services £8000.00 (link)
20/10/14 Other Hired and Contract Services £3500.00 (link)
15/4/14 SEN Legal Advice- Other Hired and Contract Services £1600.00 (link)
20/3/14 Other Hired and Contract Services £3500.00 (link)
20/3/14 Other Hired and Contract Services £3500.00
1/8/13 Other Hired and Contract Services £7000.00 (link)
8/5/13 Other Hired and Contract Services £10000.00 (link) (Corrected figure 13.07.13)
6/2/13 Other Hired and Contract Services £ 7000.00 (link)
21/9/11 Other Hired and Contract Services £ 8000.00 (link)
29/3/11 Other courses - course fees £ 850.00 (link)
Total £67200 (ex VAT)
The council contracts with a firm of solicitors that provides legal advice to local authorities on SEN appeals and tribunals. The solicitors represent the council at Special Educational Needs Tribunals for appeals that are for out of area placements or 'complex' appeals (ie placements that will potentially cost the council money because it cannot provide appropriate education within the authority).
It has calculated savings can be made to the council's SEN budget by adopting this approach, believing representation will increase its chance of winning some of these appeals (see here). It has given a number of other reasons for using legal representation but these have all been refuted by the Ministry of Justice (see this post).
The Tribunal system is supposedly informal and parents are advised by the Tribunal itself that they do not need representation. This can lead to situations whereby the local authority is legally represented out of the public purse and parents are not. There is no public funding available for parents to be legally represented at Tribunal.
Use the search term Baker Small when searching the open data links.